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New England Aquarium singing 'Sounds of the Sea'


New England Aquarium: Sounds of the Sea
Boston
Opens April 17

(CNN) -- Ever hear what a snapping shrimp sounds like underwater? How about the high-pitched call of a spotted dolphin, or the haunting serenade of a humpback whale?

These sounds, and many more from the underwater world of the planet's oceans, will be offered soon in a new, permanent interactive exhibit at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

The 2,000-square-foot exhibit, "Sounds of the Sea," aims to entertain and educate with the songs of the deep.

"In a nutshell, it's about exposing people to the world of underwater sound," says Billy Spitzer, the director of education at the aquarium. "A lot of people have a cursory familiarty with it -- whale songs, dolphin songs -- but people tend not to know about the variety of animals that make sounds underwater."

From the cowfish to the white grunt, an assortment of sounds can be heard at the aquarium.

"Probably one of the weirdest sounds is from these bearded seals who live in the Arctic waters and they make these sounds ... like they're from the 'X-files' or something," Spitzer says.

In other words, the oceans are far from being a place of quiet solitude. In fact, water transmits sounds better than air, and the result is the ability to hear across oceans. And it's not just animals that are making noises.

"The natural sounds that exist -- ice and rainstorms and earthquakes," says Spitzer. "And also the sounds of human activity -- the noise of ships of all kinds."

Spitzer says the exhibit will offer audio theaters that allow listeners to follow the sound journey of a humpback whale from Greenland to the Caribbean.

The exhibit will also explore why animals makes sound -- mating calls, echolocation, survival, etc.

"In some cases it's not exactly known how animals make these sounds, and what they use them for," Spitzer says. "It's speculative."

One part of the exhibit shakes with the sound of an underwater earthquake.

"It sounds like a subway train," Spitzer says.

Another station will let visitors impersonate a dolphin, or listen to what an operatic tenor sounds like underwater -- and a mile away.

"Sounds of the Sea" also touches upon the human element, and the effect our sounds are having on the sea. For instance, visitors can listen to a whale call competing with the sound of a ship.

"Hopefully what everyone will walk away with is an experience of what it really does sound like down there," Spitzer says. "They'll have some sense for the fact that the human activity is now adding to that sound and it's having an effect."

"Sounds of the Sea" opens at the New England Aquarium in Boston on April 17, 1999. The exhibit is included in the cost of admission to the aquarium -- $12 for adults, $6 for children, and $10 for seniors. (617) 973-5200.

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