Lake  Champlain  Research

Fauna Communications Research Institute spent 8 days on beautiful Lake Champlain this June from the 2nd to the 10th. Fauna Communications will be presenting their scientific findings at an Acoustical Society of America (American Institute of Physics) conference this fall www.nc-asa.org and http://nc-asa.org/Fall2003Program.pdf and hopefully next spring at the National http://asa.aip.org. We also will prepare the paper for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal later this fall. Discovery channel hired us to listen to the lake, and they also hired Dennis Hall of CHAMPQUEST,  although he was not on the boat with us. (If you have a sighting of something you cannot identify in Lake Champlain, please contact him at sightings@champquest.com  

 

 

 

 

 

   Results, analysis and the sound

 

 

 

        Using 4 laptop computers, two with sound analysis software, Digital audio recorders, data-loggers, GPS software on computer, 2 portable analyzers, amplifiers, 2 vector sensors (which measure vibration) and two hydrophones (underwater microphones) and other equipment we visited sites on the lake where the "CHAMP" creature has purportedly been seen. Due to thermoclines, sometimes we could hear several miles away. (In lakes usually there is a warm layer of water and a cooler layer. Where these layers meet is called a thermocline. The depth and thickness of the thermocline can vary with the season or time of day). 
 

TV show Corrections: 

1.  Sending divers down to "look around" was definitely not our idea, it was the director's idea, and was done strictly because the film company wanted underwater pictures. It is not proper scientific protocol. 

2. There were no boat mechanical problems on the first day. Al's boat ran fine, only the camera crew had failed to listen when we told them months earlier we needed a boat with an inverter for electricity. We tried to hook up an inverter, but it was a used item, did not work, and had to be returned to the store. Randy Perkett then kindly allowed us to use his cruiser Casablanca. 

 

    Introduction, Equipment, and what we did (Protocol), and about biosonar

 

 

 

 

           

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whales and dolphin search for food using a high frequency sonar signal called echolocation, or "bio-sonar." The only other known aquatic animals that echolocate are dolphins and whales (marine, although there are freshwater dolphin in China, India, Pakistan, and Brazil.)  Echolocation (biosonar) is a high frequency signal mostly above our hearing range that bounces off objects. The animal can hear the return signal and thereby know what it is. Some call it perfect underwater sight. Average echolocation signals vary, but go up to 200,000 Hertz (cycles per second) or expressed differently, 200 kilohertz (kHz). The human ear can only hear to 20,000 Hertz or 20 kHz. Man-made sonar or fish-finders send out a signal that is very regular, and entirely different then biologically produced sonar.

Initial Results

    At three different sites, on the 3rd, 4th and the 10th we picked up an echolocation signal. We picked this up on Digital audio recorders or DAT (7 Hz to 44.1 kHz ) and computer analysis data-loggers (DC to 240 kHz) which stores onto hard-drive. The PCMCIA card that allowed us to data log was donated by National Instruments, and is the very latest in technology. It allows us to analyze sounds 20 times higher then the human range of hearing. The data on Digital audio recorder has been analyzed, and the data-logging sent to a member of our software team at National Instruments. We captured the echolocation signal on our hard-drive, analyzed it as it was happening, and the signal goes up to 140,000 Hertz, or 140 kHz. The echolocation signal under analysis is similar to Beluga whale and killer echolocation, yet different enough so that we can not make a positive identification. Methods such as cross-correlation, where one compares the properties of one sound to another, can usually tell us what type of creature it is, but not in this case. It is significantly different from both whale and dolphin, but it is echolocation.

Dolphin and whale have extremely advanced auditory and sound production capabilities. Very specialized, that is what makes our finding so interesting. Whatever was in the water in Lake Champlain has to have the same type of advanced faculties to produce the signal we got.

    "I feel that the effort was a technical success as we were able to conduct far reaching, low-noise sound measurements and, indeed, were able to detect signals the nature of which suggests the presence of some interesting, unexpected phenomena." Dr. Joseph Gregory, a member of our team who is a professor of sound and vibration engineering at North Carolina State University.

Fauna Communications will be presenting their scientific findings at an Acoustical Society of America (American Institute of Physics) conference this fall and hopefully next spring. We also will prepare the paper for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal later this fall. The paper will largely talk about the technology we used, and will not be a speculation about whether champ exists. What we can say, is that there is a creature in the lake that produces bio-sonar, and we have no idea what it is. Proving or disproving the existence of Champ would require a massive and non-invasive search using acoustics, optics, etc. Most importantly, animal behavior research requires a great deal of patience, so it would be a long term study.

 

We set up a small passive acoustic field, where we could listen to what ever was vocalizing or swimming in the water around us. We had so much equipment because it is very important to have redundancies in any sort of research. If some piece of equipment fails then you have two others to back it up. We captured the signal on data-logging hard-drive, and digital audio recorder. We would pick a spot that Mr. Hall had recommended in his book, drop the sensors in the water and wait for several hours at each spot. 

 

We would watch the signal scrolling across our computer and analyzer screens and record onto harddrive and Digital audio recorder. Most of the time we could hear fish, crayfish, and the occasional turtle, and boat engines. We once even heard music coming from a boat moored several hundred meters away. Ironically, it was the song "When the levee breaks" by  Led Zeppelin. We also could hear the "plop" made by fisherman's lures as they hit the water, even 500-600 hundred feet away. That should tell you how sensitive the vector sensors are.

 

 

 

 

 

It was vitally important that we search using passive means (receiving a signal), so we could not use sonar (which is active or sending a signal). The premise is that any large predator that is searching for food in a deep and murky lake would probably need to be using their own type of echolocation. Searching for an animal such as this is purported to be, using sonar, unless it is highly specialized form, would be not be valid protocol from an animal behavior standpoint. The creature could hear the boat�s sonar or fish-finder and it would be scared away, especially if it is thought to be timid or cautious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis charts and hear the sound

  "Could this be a hoax?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was someone trying to fool us...Was it a hoax?

1. The only individuals that knew the dates we were planning to be on the lake was the film crew, who notified us of the date range June 2nd-11th on  March 3rd. 

2. The boat we were using was only secured in late May.

3. On June 2nd, the inverter on the boat we were planning to be on could not handle the power supply we needed for some of our equipment, so at 9:30 PM, June 2nd we switched to a new boat. The sounds were recorded early morning June 3rd. 

4. The signal  did not come from above the water.

5. The signal was less then 30 feet away, and we were 200-500 yards offshore, in three different locations, 24 +/- feet in two  locations, 68 in another. No one ever knew our destinations until we had left the harbor. One or more of us was always with the captain (Al Martin, Point Bay Marina) because he is a fascinating authority on Lake Champlain, and an amazingly honest and very kind individual (we liked his company). Hence, no one radioed anyone. The boat owner, Randy (who was kind enough to let us use his 54' ft motor cruiser was the same.

6. Discover channel was not aboard the day we got the signals. If they had set up a hoax you can be assured they would have been aboard.  They also had left the area when Liz recorded the 3rd set on a friend's small boat. Again, and even more so, absolutely no one knew of the destination.

7. The echolocation we recorded goes up to 140 kHz, this is 7 times beyond our hearing range. There are no underwater speakers capable of creating this high frequency sound, indeed there is only one or two that can accomplish this is air, and are not commercially available to our knowledge. Although a reciprocal transducer might be able to handle this still would have a high (or low) frequency roll-off. One of the best recent publications on playback of dolphin (who create these high frequency sounds) is:  "Sayigh, L.S., P.L. Tyack, R.S. Wells, A. Solow, M.D. Scott, and A.B. Irvine. 1999. Individual recognition in wild bottlenose dolphins: a field test using playback experiments. Animal Behavior 57:41-50."  In this paper is the following statement:

" The underwater speaker was the greatest constraint on the frequency response of the system, as it produced sounds faithfully only up to about 11 kHz."  If you do a Yahoo search for underwater speakers you won't find any that create signals above 20 kHz.

8. We feel it would be technically possible to recreate the signal underwater.  Indeed using classified technology one could probably do it.  Even so, there are sincere  differences between a playback signal and an original, our analysis would see this. If you even want to attempt it you need:

    A.  A team of specialized underwater divers (location, location is everything!) They had to be there when we were, swim beneath the boat while producing the signal.

    B.  Two expensive reciprocal transducers, with power supply.

    C. A personal underwater transportation device (submarine) with no sound producing engine (to get from Button to Hunter Bay in 1/2 hour), and in and out of Thompson's Point without us hearing or seeing it. 

   But then......Our analysis, indeed any commercially available signal editing or analysis program (like Sound Forge) could detect the difference between playback and an original signal.

Challenge: We welcome anyone that feels they can produce a 140 kHz+ biologically created (playback) signal underwater. If you think you can, send us an e-mail. If you can, then you will be (almost guaranteed) invited to lecture at one of the Acoustical Society of America's International Conferences. This would be a true honor, and we would love to collaborate with you.