Microphones on the Greenland Record Melting Icebergs

An expedition of scientists and an artist is deploying underwater microphones in the Greenland ocean to record and preserve the soundscape of melting icebergs.

Artist Siobhán McDonald will transform the recordings into an acoustic installation that explores humanity’s impact on the ocean.

The hydrophones will record sounds every hour for two years before they are collected, collected for data and the recordings converted into an acoustic composition.

Instruments are being reduced to different levels and temperatures to record earthquakes, landslides, wild lifepollution and melting ice, creating an “ocean memory” archive.

“What you’re hearing on the hydrophones is a snapshot in time,” Siobhán McDonald, an Irish artist, said Tuesday, speaking of the expedition’s ship. “It’s like a time capsule.”

The expedition deployed five hydrophone berths and 12 berths in total in Davis Strait, an arctic gateway between Greenland and Canada.

McDonald plans to work with a composer to incorporate the recordings, to be collected in 2024, into an acoustic installation that will explore humanity’s impact on the ocean. He will also make paintings, sculptures and other work based on the trip.

“I’m interested in listening to noise pollution. The sea level is rising and that will have an impact, I imagine, on the range of sound and on all biodiversity. Sound is fundamental in ocean and arctic animals. Hearing is essential for communication, reproduction, feeding and ultimately survival. It talks about the need to pay attention to the pollution we are causing in the ecosystems around us.” Funded by the US National Science Foundation’s polar program, the team of 21 researchers from Europe, the US and Canada has been at sea for four weeks studying sea salinity, whale migrations, ice floes and other phenomena. The material will be used in scientific analysis and works of art, including paintings, sculptures and films.

The expedition experienced strong winds, rain and snow and coincided with the breakup of the Nuup Kangerlua glacier. The researchers will return to the port of Nuuk in western Greenland on October 22.

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The melting of the Greenland ice sheet

The initiative came amid mounting evidence that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet (trillions of tons dumped into the ocean) will cause massive rises in sea levels.

The results of burning fossil fuels will cause a minimum rise of 27 cm (10.6 inches) from Greenland alone, according to a study recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change. A separate study last year found that a significant part of the Greenland ice sheet was on the cusp of a tipping point, after which accelerated melting would be inevitable, even if global warming stopped.

McDonald said he noticed less ice compared to his last visit to Greenland in 2017. “The collapse of the Greenland ice sheet is one of the tipping points I’m working with, a moment that may have passed.”

Still, marine life seemed to be adapting, he said. “One important thing we discovered is that up here in the Arctic, life is still thriving. While the seascape may seem barren, it is full of possibilities. Some of the hydrophones from another expedition came back looking like alien creatures coming out of the Greenland ocean. Lichens and small plants lived in symbiosis with the rusty surfaces.”

McDonald also studied the release of methane from melting permafrost and the similarities between Irish peat bogs and soil exposed by disappearing glaciers, which will be featured in an exhibit at Model, an arts center in County Sligo, next year.

The McDonald’s project has received support from the European Commission, Arts Council of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Monaghan County Council, Creative Ireland and the non-profit organizations GLUON and Oceanic Memory Project.

By Rory Carroll. Article in English

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