Amazingly, whales sing at the same wavelength as the neutrinos emitted by distant stars. Worldwide, physicists and marine biologists are sharing subsea recording facilities, and now anyone with a computer can listen in to the deep sea from home at listentothedeep.com.
Fishing for neutrinos 2500 metres under the Mediterranean Sea off Toulon in France lies the Antares project, one of 12 giant underwater telescopes located around the world. Particle physicists seek to detect the pulse of light emitted when a rare passing neutrino collides with a water molecule.
Robert Lahmann is acoustic team leader at the Antares project, explains why the astrophysicists started to listen in to the depths, "While no one has ever heard a neutrino, it is theoretically possible that we could hear a high energy collision, which is why Antares has an array of hydrophones attached to it."
But these underwater microphones are also perfect for listening into the private conversations of deep sea whales and other marine creatures.
Biologists were initially involved to help screen out natural noises from the sensitive recordings and were astonished to hear sperm whales calling in an area of the Mediterranean where they were not expected to be.
Antares aims to use the acoustic arrays to gain a wider understanding of noise in the sea and how it affects living creatures.
"For the first time we can listen live and in real time to events in the deep sea, identifying the sources of noise and tracking it." says Michel Andre, biologist and engineer on the project. It is undisputed that the sea is becoming a noisier place as man made oil and gas activities, shipping and sonar increase.
Social animals such as whales use sound to communicate with each other, while hunting, and importantly during the breeding season.
Most fish also use sound and are affected by it. Atlantic herring, cod and blue-fin tuna will leave noisy areas and school less coherently in noisy environments. Human-generated underwater noise has the potential to affect both fish and marine mammal behaviour just as traffic noise affects terrestrial animals such as birds.
Listen live at LIDO, the Listen to the Deep Ocean website.