Search teams racing to find the missing Titanic submersible have detected underwater noises in the area. But it won’t be easy to find the source of that sound in the ocean.
“It’s not a simple problem,” said Matt Dzieciuch, an ocean acoustics expert at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The Ocean is “noisy”, Dzieciuch stated. He explained that there are other sources of noise under the water including fish, animals, and human instruments.
The Coast Guard said search teams heard banging noises at 30-minute intervals.
But it’s still “speculative” whether the banging noises were a true signal of life, said Art Trembanis, a marine scientist at the University of Delaware. Even this kind of pattern could come from an underwater instrument making repeated noise.
Usually, an underwater vehicle will have a device called a pinger that can correspond with the surface and make it easier to locate, Dzieciuch said. It’s not clear if the Titan submersible used one.
A big challenge is that the search team doesn’t know exactly what kind of signal they’re looking for, said Lora Van Uffelen, an ocean engineering researcher at the University of Rhode Island.
“They’re just kind of listening for anything,” she said.
Another challenge for the search team: Sound gets bent as it travels underwater, because of how pressure and temperature change at different depths, Dzieciuch said. It can cause echoes and be difficult to find the sound source.
“Someone tapping, say, an S.O.S. “A random banging on the ocean’s surface might be mistaken for someone tapping an S.O.S. “It’s like shouting in a canyon. You can’t really understand what the person at the other end of the canyon is saying.”
The sounds in the Titan search were picked up using devices called sonobuoys, which can be tossed out of airplanes to detect noises to avoid interference with ship sounds, Dzieciuch said. Experts said that these devices would help triangulate location, but they’d need to be deployed in large numbers to work.
Van Uffelen, however, said that “sound” is still the most promising way to find the sub, as sound waves travel farther under water than on land.
And in the underwater environment, sound also travels farther than light, she pointed out — so “it’s going to be easier to find it by listening than it would be by looking.”
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The article How sound could be used by search teams to locate the Titan submarine — and why this is a difficult task first appeared on Associated Press .