Recording Antarctic Sounds


This topic contains 11 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Sciencetech 1 year, 12 months ago.

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  • #1410

    Sciencetech
    Keymaster

    Pretty quite on the board theses days… Let’s make some noise! Or rather, record it.

    I’m scheduled to deploy to Palmer this coming September and I’d like to try something new this season: audio recordings of the sounds of Antarctica.

    I’ve been shopping around for studio-quality field recorders (if you can’t do it good, why bother?) and found a few that I like. But I’m having trouble justifying the cost (e.g., $200 to $300 for a TASCAM DR-40 Recorder) for only a few minutes of penguin squawking and seal burping. Or I have a new DSLR that has an external mic input, although I don’t know if the recorded sound quality would be good enough.

    On of my concerns is that these types of field recorders are intended for close-up interactions, like recording musical instruments or voice. I don’t know how well they would work with animals at a distance, in wind, etc. Does anybody here have experience with these? I know I’d need a wind boot to cover the microphones. The station has mics for performances, but none of them are the kind of expensive shotgun mics that would be preferable for this kind of work.

    Anyway, I’m just throwing this out there to get your ideas and see what your experiences are.

    #11779

    m0loch
    Keymaster

    Either right before my winter at Palmer (2009) or right after, there was a person at Palmer on an Artists & Writers grant doing exactly that…Perhaps a google search would give you some insight into the equipment considerations.

    #11780

    skua77
    Keymaster

    It was probably Cheryl E. Leonard, who was there in January 2009. Here’s her blog http://www.musicfromtheice.blogspot.com/. She’s currently active, in addition to the CD of wildlife sounds mentioned on her blog, she has stuff on Amazon.com.

    Wonder what mic she used for “L. M. Gould: berthing van ambiance” ??

    I looked quickly through her blog and website and didn’t see any detailed description of her equipment, but you could ask her. She did mention having underwater mics.

    #11781

    Sciencetech
    Keymaster

    Yeah, deeper in her blogs she talks about hydrophones, parabolic mics, and phantom power from her field recorder to her mics. I have a good idea of what she used (all of it over my budget, so I’ll have to get creative).

    #11782

    thepooles98
    Keymaster

    Glenn, there must be thousands of people over the years that have recorded bird sounds. It can’t be that expensive. Can you settle for something less?

    #11783

    skua77
    Keymaster

    Looks like there’s pricey stuff out there. Still, check out this page http://macaulaylibrary.org/field-recording#audio-equipment and others from the Cornell Ornithology Lab. They’re supposedly one of the best in the field, but with all my time at Cornell (while studying and more recently) I’ve never visited their place 🙁

    #11784

    Sciencetech
    Keymaster

    Thanks Bill. Yeah, their equipment list is a bit dated but spells out the essentials. That’s what I want… but it ain’t gonna happen on my budget.

    Might have to get creative (i.e., some kind of funky setup using the mics on station).

    #11785

    Sciencetech
    Keymaster

    I was wondering how much use I would get out of a sound recorder here. The answer is, lots! Over just the past few days I’ve recorded terns, ice calving, and adelie penguins.

    The setup is a Tascam DR40, a set of noise-cancelling headphones, and a whole lot of patience. I could do a lot better with a couple of shotgun mics and parabolic dishes, but for the price I’m very satisfied with the quality of the on-board microphones. What I didn’t expect is wanting to record underwater sounds; had I thought of that, I could have bought a hydrophone before coming down. Instead, I found the parts to build a hydrophone.

    Here is a recording of seals in Arthur Harbor made with the hydrophone.

    The pictures show the hydrophone construction…

    #11786

    thepooles98
    Keymaster

    Well that’s cool.
    who would have guessed you would have made your own. As I heard the seals it made think of the people who speed up or slow down sounds. It might be fun to speed these up and see if it sounds like a dog barking or something.

    #11787

    capnsteve
    Participant

    Are you sure that the sounds are seals and not neutrinos in disquise?? Sounds like you are having fun, keep it up.

    cap’nsteve

    #22087

    David Lieder
    Participant

    ScienceTech, how did your recording go? Do you have any five minute segments of ambience from inner Antarctica? Like the basic wind, etc., but in stereo? It is for an orchestral composition I’m doing that has literary story set in Antarctica. I have to find and license some ambience to make it authentic. Now I’m interested in coming down there myself!! Since the U.S. does not provide artistic fellowships to its citizens, I am wondering how a U.S. citizen could do a recording project there. It would be interesting to do a 5.1 recording (surround).

    #22088

    Sciencetech
    Keymaster

    Hi David,

    The recordings went remarkably well, considering that I’m an amateur and I was using simple equipment.

    All of the recordings were made along the peninsula, so it’s generally wildlife noises and some ship-board ice breaking. Wind was often a problem because it’s windy pretty much all the time, and that doesn’t record well. Ambient noises from inner Antarctica would just sound like… wind… and maybe some ice crystals hitting the microphone.

    I may have some longer segments where I was waiting for a glacier to calve and nothing happened; that would be mostly the sounds of lapping water and a little wind — I’d have to check. Since my return I’ve been so busy I haven’t yet had time to go through all the recordings. If you want to license professional recordings, you may want to talk to Douglas Quinn (http://earthear.com/quin.html). The NSF does provide artistic fellowships, and Quinn received one back in 1998 to record Antarctic sounds. (Nobody sponsored me, harumph!)

    PS — I don’t check this board too often. Better to email me… sciencetech at yahoo daht com.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 12 months ago by  Sciencetech.
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