Monday, January 25, 2016

World's Largest Bugging Device Hears What You Can't... and it may save our butts!

This desolate outpost in remotest Greenland is home to one of the world's most high-tech listening devices, tasked with saving humanity from itself.

Located along the coastline just outside the village of Qaanaaq – which bears the additional distinction of being the world's most northerly palindrome – the sole purpose of Infrasound station IS18 consists of listening to the planet's groans that occur at frequencies too low for the human ear to detect, occurring within the range of 20 Hz down to 0.001 Hz.

Click to enlarge.
Qaaanaaq's eight-element array is divided into two sub-arrays bolstered by wind reduction technology, all of which are linked to a Central Processing Facility (or CPF) that churns out data around-the-clock to a central terminal in Qaanaaq proper. But why put such an extremely space-age device in a village accessible only by helicopter, whose locals subsist largely on narwhal, seals, and polar bears?

In its most practical application, IS18 is part of a network of highly specialized sensors charged with monitoring the globe for atomic blasts, as set forth by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Around the clock, the array monitors the entire world for distinctive blast patterns produced by such explosions, as their unique pattern of ultra-low frequency sound waves persist even when ricocheting through the Earth's surface. more