Humans have navigated the seas for thousands of years. Gradually our relationship with nature has changed from one of supplication and mystery to one of ownership and mastery largely based on the sophistication of the tools available to us. These same tools have also allowed us to experience and explore nature in expanded dimensions with a completely new array of sensing systems. Bioacoustics is the study of how humans and other animals use sound and acoustical perception, and how their various acoustical adaptations reflect their relationships with their habitat and surroundings.
As we expand our understanding and measurement of marine habitats we are coming to understand how the breadth and complexity of marine perceptual systems far exceeds our own expansive perceptual repertoire.
A Soniferous World
The tales of selkies and sirens, seraphim and sea dragons are peppered throughout our diverse mythologies replete with their screams, roars, and seductive songs. Ancient seafarers knew that the beasts of the sea were songful; recognition of the musicality of cetaceans dates back at least as far as the 7th Century B.C.E., when dolphins of the Aegean Sea recognized Greek musician Arion as a kindred musical soul and rescued him when he was cast into the sea by his thieving shipmates.
Up into the 19th century the maritime life was much the same; vessels powered by wind and muscle plied the seas in search of adventure, bounty, and trade. While it was assumed into the lexicon of commerce, seafaring was largely a biological affair and any noise introduced by human engagement was likely drowned out by the noise of whales, fish, crustaceans, and the very noise of the sea itself.
Drowning in the Din
Since the mechanization of our civilization in the last 100 years