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No. 42: Nov-Dec 1985

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The sausalito hum

"The mysterious underwater hum that has annoyed Sausalito's houseboat community for the past 11 summers is back, and investigators still do not know the cause. 'It's a loud and audible mechanical raspy hum,' said Waldo Point Harbormaster Ted Rose, who said the vexing noise sounded like an electric razor. 'It sounds like this mzmzmzmzmzmzmzm,' Rose said. 'Sometimes it gets so loud you have to talk above it. It can drown out conversations and wake people from a dead sleep.' For reasons no one understands, the noise can be heard only from about 8 p.m. until sunrise, and it goes silent from late September until mid-April, when it begins humming again through the summer."

Acoustical engineers from Berkeley could not pinpoint the source of the sound with the help of instruments and a diver. Biologists believe the noise is made by the singing toad-fish, also called the plainfin midshipman. (Leery, Kevin, "Sausalito's Weird Hum Is Back, " San Francisco Chronicle, July 29, 1985. Cr. P. Bartindale. Also: Anderson, fan; "Humming Fish Disturb the Peace, " New Scientist, p. 64, September 12, 1985.) (See Category GSMI in EARTHQUAKES, TIDES, UNIDENTIFIED SOUNDS for more instances of underwater sounds, especially those mysterious sounds heard near the mouth of the Pascagoula River, Mississippi. (WRC)

From Science Frontiers #42, NOV-DEC 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss