How to Hear an Underwater Earthquake

For a story in progress (now available!), I was doing some research on infrasound and sea animals and hydrophonics, and I happened across this amazing and terrifying recording.

The March 11, 2011 Tōhoku earthquake off Japan, which produced a devastating tsunami killing perhaps 16,000 people, was recorded by a hydrophonic array in the Aleutian Islands, more than 900 miles away. Despite the great distance, the recorded seismic disturbance is the loudest they’ve ever captured, even louder than the nearby underwater volcanoes.

Listen all the way through to the end, when the sound simply buries the microphone. It’s terrifying.

The sound is sped up to place it within the range of human hearing, as we cannot hear the infrasound it would be naturally.

It is speculated that land animals who behave strangely prior to earthquakes may be hearing such deep noises. Certainly sea animals must hear and feel these sound waves as well as the pressure waves.

In case you were wondering just how massive earthquakes can be:

The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 2.4 m (8 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in), and generated sound waves detected by the low-orbiting GOCE satellite. (Wikipedia)

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One Comment

  1. Is it possible for something to be cool and scary at the same time? Because this is.

    As a bird-nerd, I know that warblers fled a tornado outbreak in the Appalachians 1-2 days BEFORE the tornadoes actually hit last year. They flew all the way back along their migration route to the Gulf of Mexico, then after the storms passed, they flew back. Hurricanes, sure, but tornadoes? Animals are definitely tuned into to frequencies we humans are too limited to feel!

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