By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
First, the buzz: Radio stations, in particular, were intrigued. KIRO-FM’s Dave Ross and Luke Burbank talked with us this morning; later, we talked off-mike with a reporter working on a KPLU story. The nationally popular website Boing Boing found West Seattle’s “hum” intriguing enough for a blurb.
But the question remained: What is, or was, to blame for “the hum”?
More theories turned up in the 170-plus-comment discussion following our Wednesday story. The audio clip provided by Julie Schickling of Highland Park was even taken by one person who e-mailed us, David Voy, and turned into a visualization:
Reader Ben mapped the spots where it was heard, when WSB commenters mentioned a location, and invited others to add to this map – here’s what it has so far:
View Have you heard the Hum? in a larger map
Then tonight, KING 5′s Jim Forman hooked into the possibility it might be a sound made by fish – the plainfin midshipman fish. They talked with two scientists who are apparently out on the Duwamish River listening tonight; in the version of the story that we saw on KING’s 10 pm broadcast, they said that a ship’s hull could amplify and reflect the vibration the fish makes.
Here’s their story:
You can also hear the sound of the plainfin midshipman fish in this NPR story from 2009.
(Added Friday morning, thanks to a tip from Mike) You can see/hear it in this video published on YouTube by the Associated Press in 2008:
Meantime, in case it does turn out to be man-made … In our original story yesterday – sparked by e-mails, phone calls, and WSB Forums threads about “the hum,” also covered here back in 2009 – the city said they couldn’t do much without complaints specifying the suspected source.
When we checked back today, Department of Planning and Development (which has noise jurisdiction) spokesperson Bryan Stevens told WSB they’re officially investigating:
An inspector has been following this issue since Wednesday. Complaints have come in from areas including South Park, Fauntleroy, Lincoln Park, and even Vashon Island. Our inspector is checking in with some of the complainants to first verify they’re all hearing the same thing. We’ll also be conducting a field inspection to see what that yields. Noise is a fickle thing that can be impacted by conditions such as topography, wind and even temperature. We’re working it, but it’s going to take some time to nail down, if that’s even possible.
Of course, if it’s a fish, no amount of city-citation threats would stop it. We’ll see what the researchers have to say – and whether the “hum” returns in the strength that brought so many reports over Labor Day weekend.
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