Satellite photos used to be for military eyes only, but Google Earth changed all that. Now something similar is happening to the ocean depths, with any web user able to listen in and “surf the sea floor” – and the US Navy is not happy.
“The cable is going underneath here,” says Benoit Pirenne, standing at the water’s edge on Canada’s Vancouver Island. “It’s going out 500 miles (800km) in a big loop in the ocean, coming back in the same place.”
The Vancouver cable connects a network of scientific instruments on the floor of the north Pacific, some as deep as 1.5 miles (2.5km).
Set up by Pirenne and his colleagues at the University of Victoria, and called Neptune Canada, they continuously monitor the marine environment.
Ocean floor listening posts in the north Pacific off Vancouver Island
The scientists are harvesting large amounts of information, including water pressure readings that help them better understand the movement of tsunamis through oceans, which they hope will lead to more accurate warning systems.
But they are also listening.
Pressure-sensitive microphones pick up the live sounds of everything from whales and shipping to seismic activity and the movement of tectonic plates, and this audio is shared with scientists all over the world.
It’s also now available to anyone else with an internet connection.
Written by Rhitu Chatterjee and Rob Hugh-Jones at BBC News. Continue HERE