pistol shrimps at dawn

Chris Watson, sound recordist and longstanding collaborator of David Attenborough, hosted a fascinating workshop at Berry Head Quarry, Brixham in September. With a storm raging outside we gathered in the Artillery Store for Chris’ introduction to sound recording and the acoustic world of the ocean. (As a novice sound recordist I had my Zoom H4n handy recorder with me, eager to pick up some tips). During a brief break in the weather we walked down to the Quarry Quay and Chris showed us how to set up the hydrophone (underwater microphone) equipment with plastic bottle floats, canes as fishing rods and cable lines – literally fishing for sounds. With a speaker set up under an umbrella, we could clearly hear the pistol shrimps (or snapping shrimps)

Pistol shrimps are common throughout the world’s oceans, and their sounds are the background fuzz of the underwater soundscape around any shoreline. The snapping sound is made by the implosion of an air bubble produced by the shrimp’s powerful claw, in order to stun their prey.

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Chris Watson at Berry Head Quay setting up the hydrophones with workshop participants
Hydrophones in the water with plastic bottles as floats

water images from the hebrides

I am interested in the visual and acoustic qualities of water in the wild, and how these might inform the treatment of water in an urban public space.  These photographs from a trip to the Hebrides in August show the ocean in various states of animation, transparency and colour. Different states invoke different emotional responses. The water in motion makes its own sound, and the surface properties of the water affect the acoustic reflections of ambient sounds.


From the CalMac Ferry between Mull and Tiree
Shallow water over sand on a Tiree beach
Water like cast glass on the Isle Of Seil
From the CalMac Ferry between Mull and Tiree