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Deep Sound: A Free-Falling Sensor Platform for Depth-Profiling Ambient Noise in the Deep Ocean

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Ambient noise in the deep ocean is traditionally monitored using bottom-mounted or surface-suspended hydrophone arrays. An alternative approach has recently been developed in which an autonomous, untethered instrument platform free falls under gravity from the surface to a preassigned depth, where a drop weight is released, allowing the system to return to the surface under buoyancy. Referred to as Deep Sound, the instrument records acoustic, environmental, and system data continuously during the descent and ascent. The central component of Deep Sound is a Vitrovex glass sphere, formed of two hemispheres, which houses data acquisition and storage electronics, along with a microprocessor for system control. A suite of sensors on Deep Sound continuously monitor the ambient noise, temperature, salinity, pressure, and system orientation throughout the round trip from the surface to the bottom. In particular, several hydrophones return ambient noise time series, each with a bandwidth of 30 kHz, from which the noise spectral level, along with the vertical and horizontal coherence, are computed as functions of depth. After system recovery, the raw data are downloaded and the internal lithium ion batteries are recharged via throughputs in the sphere, which eliminates the need to separate the hemispheres between deployments. In May 2009, Deep Sound descended to a depth of 6 km in the Philippine Sea and successfully returned to the surface, bringing with it a unique data set on the broadband ambient noise within and below the deep sound channel. The next deep deployment is planned for November 2009, when Deep Sound will descend almost 11 km, to the bottom of the Challenger Deep at the southern end of the Mariana Trench. If successful, it will return with continuous acoustic and environmental recordings taken from the sea surface to the bottom of the deepest ocean on Earth.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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