by Paul Doherty
continuous roaring like the sound of a distant jet engine.
I am looking out the library window on the top floor of the
Crary Science Lab during a blizzard and the wind is not only
filling the building with sound as it tumbles over the building,
it is also vibrating the entire building. I can feel the vibration
through my hands as I lean on the window ledge. Outside, the
roaring noise is louder, I look up and see that there are
30 different wires doing a wild dance in the wind, shedding
vortices which reach my ear as sound. A 30 string wind harp
at full volume in 50 mph (75 kph) winds. In a tent the taught
fabric snaps and hums. The vibration of the tent fabric comes
up through the tent floor, through my foam pads and into my
body. I'm listening to the sound of the storm with my whole
body. I am intensely interested in the sounds because if my
tent is destroyed I am in deep trouble.
helicopters ferry us around Antarctica. They make a distinctive,
sharp, whup,whup,whup sound which can be heard for miles.
The sharp sounds are made by shock waves. The rotor blade
tips move slower than the speed of sound, but just beyond
the end of the blades the air that is rotating with the blades
is moving faster than the speed of sound. This leads to the
production of the distinctive sound. The loud sounds give
us an early warning that helicopters are incoming, this allows
us to say our good-byes and get to the helicopter pad in time
for our flights.
deep inside the ice tower of a fumarole, the first thing I
noticed was the quiet, but then I heard a deep hissing sound.
It sounded like some giant hidden dragon? (Yes, Crouching
Writer Hidden Dragon) Yet it was actually gas escaping from
the volcano. Geologists had sampled the gas and found it harmless,
water vapor flavored with a little carbon dioxide. Yet the
warm gas had melted the ice out of this chamber and then frozen
on exposure to the air creating the ice tower above us. It
was doing the work of a sculptor, carving and building. Beneath
all of this natural artistry the fumarole whistled as it worked.
day was warm and sunny, temperatures were above 40 F (5 C).
As I hiked downhill into town I heard a sound like the white
noise on a television pulsing louder and quieter. As I approached
town the volume increased. What was making this sound? Then
to my surprise I saw something strange right beside me, the
dirt was writhing, and moving downhill. It was a rivulet,
muddy liquid water. Liquid water? Outdoors in Antarctica?
Amazing! I was hearing the sound of running water, a sound
I had heard all my life and yet here it ambushed me. Sometimes
you hear what you expect, and the last thing I expected was
to hear the music of flowing water.
most amazing sound in Antarctica is the sound of silence.
On a calm day out on the glacier far from McMurdo I paused
and noticed the quiet. No sounds at all. As my brain adjusted
to the quiet I began to hear a pulsing, throbbing beat. The
sounds of pumps and machinery. My internal pumps. The blood
rushing through my carotid artery breaking into turbulence
and generating sounds to the beat of my heart.