By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When last we checked in on “The Hum,” after a spate of complaints around Labor Day weekend followed mostly by quietude except for news-media outlets around the region/country/world picking up on it (seriously!), the city had started to investigate, while two researchers were heading out to the Duwamish River to see if the midshipman fish might be to blame (as reported by KING 5 last Thursday night).
So, is it the fish’s fault?
Says the lead researcher, Joseph Sisneros from the University of Washington, who went out that night with a graduate student to investigate:
We contacted him today to follow up on what they had done and found:
We placed a hydrophone (underwater microphone) in the Duwamish river (eastside of West Seattle), Alki Beach (northside of West Seattle in Elliott Bay) and near Lincoln Park (west side of West Seattle in Puget Sound). We did not hear any calls that night; we were out until about 11:30 pm. Thus, we have no evidence or data that the midshipman is present in West Seattle waters right now.
We were very interested that night in discovering new nest sites for these fish to study close to home/university. The mating season for the midshipman is typically late spring to summer. September is rather late in the summer but not necessary unheard of for the midshipman mate call to be heard, since in California, midshipman nests have been found sub-tidally during the fall months. For your information, the midshipman fish is a common fish found from Alaska to southern California. Very abundant on the west of the US.
After hearing about the strange reports of the hum in West Seattle, we were intrigued that perhaps the midshipman might be heard near shore if the calls were possibly transmitted via tanker or boat hulls. There was a famous story from Sausalito, CA in the 1980s when the mating calls of midshipman were heard to resonate through the houseboat hulls and drove the resident community crazy. There were all kinds of theories back then what the strange hum could be. Later the local fish biologist determined it was the midshipman’s mating call that was the source of the hum.
With that said, it would be impossible for the resonating hum to be transmitted very far inland into West Seattle, especially to places in the center of West Seattle where some of the “hums” have been reported on the West Seattle Blog! My guess is the sounds that are being heard are man-made.
So then, what are/were they? We checked back today with Bryan Stevens, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, which has jurisdiction over noise complaints/investigations. His update:
No new information at this point. Staff have been looking over possible construction projects in the area, but haven’t found anything that would have occurred in that vicinity or during the noted timeframe. Usually we hear from someone that can narrow it down to at least a couple blocks, but the comments we’ve received up to this point have been much more broad. That coupled with the limited duration of the noise (once a month maybe) will make this a difficult one to resolve.
So if you hear it again – note as much descriptive information as you can, record it if you can, and contact the city’s noise inspectors: (206) 684-7843 or (206) 615-1760.