This sonic kayak creates unique in transit audio using underwater sounds
A team of researchers seeks to digitize the kayak in a new how-to manual that explains how to equip a kayak with “an underwater microphone, thermometers, a GPS unit, and speakers.” Following the steps of the guide, recently published in the PLOS Biology journal, yield a “sonic kayak” capable of recording underwater sounds via “submerged sensors.” An electronically outfitted sonic kayak can also broadcast music from speakers placed at the kayak’s prow. The sonic kayak can be used to collect underwater noise pollution data, as well as water temperature information.
Amber Griffiths spearheads the research team responsible for the invention of the sonic kayak manual. Griffiths’ association with FoAM Kernow, a lab that touts itself as a lab focused on “speculative culture,” aligns with the goal of the sonic kayak, designed to catalyze “non-scientists” to venture out on the water to record data. An experimental musical instrument, the sonic kayak combines live underwater audio, one tone that ascends and descends with water temperature change, and pre-recorded audio that plays as the kayak passes certain GPS “checkpoints.” The sonic kayak mixes these three audio files into one master sound, comparable to “spa or meditation music.”
The sonic kayak’s lack of a headphone jack is a cautionary feature. While sonic kayak navigators could likely engineer a way to use headphones instead of the kayak’s speakers, Griffiths warns boat users against doing so. “You really don’t want to be capsizing with cables around your neck area,” Griffith states, “And if you have cable-free headphones then you risk capsizing into water with a battery strapped to your head, so shocks might happen.” For the daredevils determined to tempt fate, the admonition is clear: kayak with headphones at one’s own risk.
H/T: The Verge