Mysterious hum keeping people up all night ‘could be mating fish’

Sea monster or fish in shape of a bishop, from...

Sea monster or fish in shape of a bishop, from: Works of Ambrose Pare, translated out of latin. London: Coates & Young, 1634 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is weird.  People in Hythe near Southampton are leaving their homes at night because of a loud, deep hum that’s keeping them awake.  A mystery for which there is only speculation but the favoured explanation seems to be ‘fish’.  Apparently there are towns on the US coast which have experienced similar phenomena.  Could this be an idea for Stephen KIng?





The Midshipman

There’s this noise that annoys us late at night;
a persistent drone
that pulsates through our home.
The deep-throat hum of light industry?
The resonant thrum of machinery?
Or of cargo ships?
What can it be?  What can it be?

Maybe it’s the neighbours washing their clothes.
There’s nowt as queer as folk like those.

Maybe a colony of Zen Buddhist monks.
They could be the cause,
late at night out of doors,
putting their tunics on,
chanting in unison –
Om      Om      Om.

Or maybe it’s the navy
testing some secret sonic device
with a bittern boom that slices the night,
rattles our rooms,
keeps us awake and gives us a fright.
Yes, it may be the navy.

We must have a break,
it keeps us awake.
What will it take
to discover the source
before it gets worse.

The doctors have said it’s tinnitus.
The navy said ‘it ain’t us’.
Industry said ‘you’ve got us wrong’.
The neighbours said ‘our machine’s not on.’
The Buddhists just went Om.

The experts were foxed
then the cox of a trawler docked in port
said to the papers …..
“I’ve the answer you sought.
It’s a fish.
Not a whale,
nor a deep-sea monster
from a seafarers tale.
It’s a fish.
Quite delish when caught
and served in a dish of bouillabaisse.
Mmmmm.  This fish is the best.
I’ve heard it before
and I’ll hear it again
that hum, drum, thrum,
that haunting refrain.
In all my days as a fisherman
I know the call, the mating call
of the fish simply called …..
the ‘Midshipman’.


24th October 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Mysterious hum keeping people up all night ‘could be mating fish’.”  The noise “pulsates” through homes, forcing some residents of Hythe near Southampton to evacuate the area just to get a good night’s sleep.  People have complained to their local council, and the blame has been put on everything from industry to the large cargo ships coming in at Southampton Docks – some residents have even gone to the doctor thinking they had tinnitus.  Scientists now think that the noise is being caused by fish, competing to out-hum one another as part of an unusual mating ritual.  Male Midshipman fish let out a deep, resonating drone which attracts females and acts as a challenge to other males. They are nocturnal creatures, but once they get going can keep up the distracting hum all night.  Unfortunately for the residents of Hythe, the noise created by the Midshipman is of such a low frequency and long wavelength that it can carry through the ground, walls, and into homes.



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