Mystery hum in Southampton is fish mating call

There appears to be an explanation for the unknown and unnerving hum in Southampton. It’s not from industry but from nature.

Scientists believe the noise could be being caused by midshipman fish looking for mates in an estuary nearby in Hythe, near Southampton in Hampshire.

Mystery hum keeping people awake may be love-making fish – Telegraph.

Midshipman male fish let out a distinctive drone to let females know they are searching for a mate.
The noise can go on for hours and often increases in volume as competing males attempt to out-hum each other. The noise can also be amplified by the sound bouncing off buildings and ships.

The noise is famous in Seattle in Washington, USA, as Midshipman fish are believed to live in the nearby Duwamish waterway, and people living nearby in Hythe think the noise is similar.

The fish make various noises but the males’ long-duration hum can last an hour. The females respond by laying eggs in the nest made by the male. The hums of competing males can be loud and reverberate off ships or buildings. It is most pronounced at night.

You can here the sound here from an NPR story. It’s very weird and you can see how it will be bothersome.

It was also recorded in Seattle.

Seattle ‘Hum’ May Be Due To Midshipman Fish That Produce Sound For Mating (VIDEO, AUDIO).

I’m glad the residents got their answer.

Midshipman fish

Midshipman fish

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  7 comments for “Mystery hum in Southampton is fish mating call

  1. Blargh
    October 24, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    “Biologist Andrew Bass”

    Nominative determinism?

    But finally, a recording! That’s what I have been waiting for since the first story here on that.

    But I have to say, that sound doesn’t sound all that annoying. But then again, I live next door to an airbase and a flight school, so my perception might be a little skewed…

  2. Eve
    October 24, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    I’m amazed they can’t find a mate on good looks alone.

  3. Nos482
    October 24, 2013 at 11:48 PM


  4. cplamb
    October 25, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Sounds very much like a 60Hz hum. I wonder if the females are attracted to transformers? Do any of you folks (except Kenneth) know what that frequency is?

  5. Blargh
    October 25, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    The UK grid runs at 50 Hz.

  6. Walter Turner
    October 26, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    The little video says this sound is part of Cornell University’s ornithological collection. Perhaps a reader whose imagination is still flourishing (mine has long since been overrun by reality) can explain that. A mutant nightjar? I see a vague resemblance of the bird to the illustrated fish, and that would have the advantage of bringing Ms Hill’s favorite animal into the picture, but I can’t match the frequency. A giant moa in Hampshire?
    Speaking of imagination, though. I’ve been waiting in vain for a successful play on the words midshipman and mate.

  7. Harrow
    October 31, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Because they don’t know the words, that’s why…

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