29 Feb 2024

The undersea orchestra - Ocean sounds and what they tell us

From Voice of Tangaroa, 5:00 am on 29 February 2024
A photo looking down on a large circular tank filled with water and four large crayfish. Box lights in the tank illuminate the crayfish. A man in a white shirt wearing headphones standing on the far side of the tank dangles a microphone into the water. The tank is in a dark room with bare wooden walls.

The University of Auckland’s Craig Radford uses a hydrophone to listen to crayfish. Photo: © Richard Robinson

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Crackle, pop, woof, crunch, click. 

Beneath the roar of the surf, an undersea orchestra is in full swing.  

Symphony in the sea 

A close-up of a fish's face looking front-on into camera. The fish has big dark eyes and a downturned mouth, with skin that is silvery and luminscent. The back-end of the fish is obscured by the dark black water.

New Zealand bigeyes – small, nocturnal reef fish – make rhythmic pops in the dark to help them stay together as a school. Photo: © Richard Robinson

Journalist Kate Evans and presenter Claire Concannon discover a world of snapping shrimp, singing whales and barking John Dory. 

Researchers Professor Craig Radford and Dr Jenni Stanley are uncovering more about the orchestra harmonising under the waves – who’s playing in it, and why they are making these sounds. 

Plus, what impact is our human noise – like boats – having on ocean creatures? 

Listen to the episode to immerse yourself in this hidden sonic world. 

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Photo: NZ On Air

Voice of Tangaroa is a joint production between RNZ’s Our Changing World and New Zealand Geographic.

Reporting for this series is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air. You can learn more and read the articles for free at www.nzgeo.com/seas