Acoustics Australia

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 21–32 | Cite as

Underwater Sound Sources and Ambient Noise in Fowlers Bay, South Australia, during the Austral Winter

  • Rhianne WardEmail author
  • Robert D. McCauley
  • Alexander N. Gavrilov
  • Claire M. Charlton
Original Paper


Passive acoustic recordings made in Fowlers Bay, South Australia, during the austral winter of 2013–2017 revealed the presence of several sources of underwater sound. Sound sources of biological origin include baleen and toothed whales, fish and shrimp. Physical sources of underwater sound include wind- and rain-driven noises, and underwater sounds of anthropogenic origin were primarily from boats and occasionally from an aircraft. Biological sound sources were commonly recorded within the frequency range of around 25 Hz to nearly 17 kHz, with baleen whales within the range of ~ 25 Hz to 6 kHz, and dolphins at higher frequencies of approximately 2.5–17 kHz. Broadband sounds from physical and anthropogenic sound sources were noticeable at frequencies above ~ 50 Hz. The ambient noise level in Fowlers Bay at frequencies below 100 Hz was relatively low (around 75 dB re 1 µPa2/Hz for the 95% percentile) due to an insignificant contribution of noise from distant shipping. At higher frequencies, the noise level was governed primarily by noise from wind and varied by nearly 30 dB re 1 µPa2/Hz depending on weather conditions, up to around 80 dB re 1 µPa2/Hz for the 95% percentile during periods of strong winds and intense rainfall.


Passive acoustics Underwater sound Sound source Ambient noise Fowlers Bay 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Curtin University Great Australian Bight Right Whale Study for collection of the data presented in this paper. Thanks to Mal Parry and Dave Minchin of CMST, Curtin University, for assistance in setting up recorders and associated equipment. An additional thanks to Curtin University for in-kind support during the field seasons. Rod and Simone Keogh at Eyre Peninsula Eco Tours provided invaluable in-kind support, vessel use and assistance, and without them this research would not have gone ahead—thank you. Funding for the 2014–2017 field seasons was provided by Murphy Australia Oil Pty. Ltd. and Santos Ltd., with additional funding provided by Karoon Gas in 2017. A funding grant was provided by the Australian Acoustical Society WA Division to conduct field work in 2016.


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Copyright information

© Australian Acoustical Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Marine Science and TechnologyCurtin UniversityBentleyAustralia

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