Below are some real (nothing from Hollywood) underwater sounds and some video. These are in MP3 format which should work on most modern browsers.
We are always looking for additional real underwater sounds of interest to the historic naval ship community (or better copies of what we have). Please contact us with the Feedback Form if you have any interesting sounds you wish to share.
Recordings Made on USS Sealion During WW II:
On 21 Nov 1944, Imperial Japanese Navy Battleship Kongo was sunk by USS Sealion. The crew of Sealion made sound recordings in the conning tower of the submarine during the attack. They also recorded another attack during their 5th war patrol in March of 1945. Very, very few sound recordings of any kind where made aboard submarines during the war. These truly remarkable recordings may be the only audio or video from within a submarine during an attack that has survived. The sound you hear on the links below has been copied many times and is at times hard to understand. The Kongo attack was first recorded on a portable film optical recording machine. It was later transferred with a narrators voice at the beginning and end to 78 RPM records by Columbia University Division of War Research at the U.S. Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory
Fort Trumbull, New London, Connecticut. Later, one of Sealion's crew, Fred Schuler, acquired a copy of the training records and added his own music and narration and transferred the sounds to cassette tape. A copy of this was discovered in the collection at the Mariners' Museum in 2004. In May of 2005 the original of this tape was found by Mr. Schuler's son and was digitized for long term preservation. Then in July we found copies of these records in the collection of the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, WA.
17. Church Call;
18. Pay Call;
19. Liberty Call
Expendable Radio Sonobuoy Training Records, 15P3:
U.S. Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics - Special Devices Division
These are 78 RPM records prepared by Columbia University, Division of War Research at the U.S. Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory, Fort Trumball, New London Conn.
A cassette tape containing a copy of these records was discovered by a group researching I-52 for potential salvage. They were kind enough to provide a copy for our use. Most extraordinary are the final records (XIX and XX) which are pieced together from an actual attack on Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-52 during 1944.
The user manual including instructions on how to use the records and the text of the records is available here.
An illustration and short description of the WW II radio sonobuoy hardware may be found at:
https://maritime.org/doc/sonar/chap16.htm#fig16-19 and https://maritime.org/doc/sonar/chap16.htm#pg299
I. Introduction to Submarine Sounds:
(1) water noise, (2) propeller beats, (3) machinery sounds, (4) auxiliary motor sounds, (4) propeller beats and machinery sound together.
All recorded from USS Bluegill, an American fleet type submarine.
II. Cavitation: Effect of Depth and Speed (Fleet Type Submarine).
(1) Periscope depth, 7 knots, (2) Periscope depth, 3 knots, (3) Periscope depth, 6 knots, (4) 250 ft. depth, 6 knots, (5) 250 ft. depth, 8 knots.
Old type submarine was S-20.
III. Cavitation: Effect of Depth and Speed (Old Type Submarine)
(1) Periscope depth, 3 knots, (2) 100 ft. depth, 3 knots, (3) Periscope depth, 2 1/2 knots, (4) 100 ft. depth, 2 1/2 knots
IV. Estimation of Submarine's Speed by Counting RPM
(1) Fleet type submarine, 120 RPM, 6 knots
(2) Old type submarine, 150 RPM, 3 knots
(3) Fleet type submarine, 140 RPM, 7 knots
V. Effect of Underwater Range on Submarine Sounds
(1) Range - 200 yards, (2) Range - 1,000 yards, (3) Range - 200 yards, (4) Range - 1,000 yards, (5) Range 300 yards
The first three examples are of USS Bluegill, and the last two USS Pintado, both fleet type submarines.
VI. Comparison Between Sounds Produced by Surfaced and Submerged Submarine.
(1) Periscope depth, 3 knots, (2) On surface, 7 knots, (3) Periscope depth, 3 knots, (4) Blowing tanks and surfacing
VII. Interfering Sounds: Submarine and Destroyer Escort
(1) Submarine, periscope depth, 3 knots, (2) DE, 15 knots, (3) Submarine, 500 yards; and DE, 1500 yards, (4) Submarine, periscope depth, 5 knots; DE, 10 knots, approaching from 1,000 yards
The DE was a 1720 class and the submarine was USS S-20 built in 1920.
VIII. Sounds Produced by Activities Aboard Submarine:
(1) Operating trim pump, (2) Bleeding down ballast tanks, (3) Operating radar-training motor-generator, (4) Pounding on pipes and bulkhead, (5) Operating torpedo data computer, (6) Slamming bulkhead door, (7) Announcing over P.A. system, shouting of crew, (8) Sounding alarms, (9) Charging batteries
Recorded 50 feet from the conning tower of USS Cavalla
IX. Marine Life Sounds.
(1) Croakers, (2) Black drum fish, (3) Snapping shrimp, (4) Garibaldi, (5) Porpoises
XI. Torpedo, Mine-sweeper, and Foxer Sounds
(1) German electric torpedo, (2) German air torpedo, (3) Acoustic minesweeper, (4) Foxer
XII. Depth Charge Explosions
(1) Range-2 miles, (2) Range-1 mile, (3) Range-1,000 yards, (4) Range-100 yards, (5) Depth charges as heard aboard a submarine, 100 yards from buoy
These are Mark 47 depth charges dropped from aircraft. Each explosion is about 15-20 seconds, explosion sounds are sometimes as long as 60 seconds.
XIII. Identification Test
Nine examples to be identified.
(1) Water noise only, (2) Submarine propeller beats or sub. propeller beats with machinery whine, (3) Machinery whine from submarine, (4) Water noise only, (5) Submarine's auxiliary motors (bow and stern planes), (6) Minesweeper, (7) Sub propeller beats and machinery whine, (8) Croakers, (9) Submarine charging batteries, (10) Submarine propeller beats and depth charge.
XIV. Identification and Turncount Test
Six examples to be identified and examples for turncount test.
(1) Submarine propeller beats or sub. propeller beats with machinery whine, (2) Water noise only, (3) Submarine propeller beats and minesweeper, (4) Surfaced submarine running on Diesels, (5) Destroyer Escort, 15 knots, (6) Depth charge, (7) RPM-120, Speed-6 knots.
XV. Search Problem
Three buoy pattern
Orange, Purple and Blue are arranged as a right triangle with O on top. The submarine is below Purple and Blue between the Purple and Blue.
Submarine is a fleet type submarine.
XVI. Search Problem
Five buoy pattern
The buoys are in a cross with Orange on top (north), Purple in the center, Yellow on left, Blue on right and Red below (south). The submarine is traveling south below the red buoy.
The target is an S-type submarine.
XVII. Search Problem
Five buoy pattern
The buoys are in a cross with Orange on top (north), Purple in the center, Yellow on left, Blue on right and Red below (south).
The sub is going in the direction of the Yellow buoy, but is close to the Orange buoy.
XVIII. Search Problem
Five buoy pattern
A sub is heard on Yellow frequency. On the second round a DE is heard on Purple and Blue and the sub is getting weaker on the Yellow. Both vessels are going in a westerly direction, the sub leaving the pattern and the DE entering.
XIX. These are sounds heard during actual anti-submarine operations during WW II. These are pieced together from the attack on Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-52 by PBY aircraft from USS Bogue during 1944.
XX. Continuation of the sounds from the attack on Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-52
Attack on Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-52:
These are two wires recording by the second aircraft sent by USS Bogue. Note that I-52 had already been sunk by the first aircraft. The propeller noise heard are from a German submarine in the area. However, the crew of the aircraft did not know this. It is interesting to hear the real rhythm of the 3 man crew working to find the target. It is also interesting how the training record above mixed the sounds from these recordings with those from the first plane's attack for dramatic effect. These two wires survived in the collection of the NUWC Division Newport and later transferred to the US National Archives in College Park, MD. The NARA reference information is RG-38, 273, 1 and RG-38, 273, 2.
Sonar Training Record Series D16:
These are declassified training recordings of USN submarines on an early radio sonobuoy system. These were provided by NUWC Newport.
Introduction, small submarine propulsion with little background noise.
Approaching and leaving small submarine with little background noise.
Circling submarine with both motor and propeller sounds. Explosions in the background.
Small submarine above with some background noise.
Small submarine with some background noise and surface naval vessel.
Large submarine with some background freighter noise.
Old type submarine with realistic noise from the sonobuoy gear on a quiet day.
Large submarine with more sonobuoy noise.
Samples from the sonobuoy with overloading when close, and of submarine moving towards and away from hydrophone.
Submarine moving towards hydrophone.
More practice determining if the submarine is moving towards or away from the sonobuoy.
Sounds *other than* the propulsion.
More sounds *other than* propulsion created aboard USS Blackfish, and other non-submarine sounds.
Practice sounds. Note that the prefix to the first sound at the very beginning is missing.
Practice sounds continued.
JP Sonar Training Records:
The JP was the most important and most frequently used submarine passive sonar used during WW II. These 78-RPM training records were created for the Bureau of Naval Personnel by Columbia University - Division of War Research
at the U.S. Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory, Fort Trumbul, New London, Connecticut.
NAVPERS 11721RA: Use of Filters and Drop Count Detector
1. Destroyer 2000 yds., 22 knots-flat, 500, 3000, and 6000 cycle filters;
2. Repeat of first example;
3. IC motor-generator on own submarine-flat filter;
4. Ventilating fan on own submarine-flat filter;
5. Destroyer-1000 yds., 22 knots-500 and 6000 cycle filters, prop count detector ON;
6. Repeat of fifth example.
NAVPERS 11721RB: Operation of JP Gear-Search
1. Destroyer-2000 yds., 10 knots-various filter position;
2. Own ship's propellers-500 cycle filter
Communications - Underwater Explosions used for Mapping
Sonar - Active Ping Sonar Sequence
Sonar - Sonar Doppler Sequence
Sonar - Surface Echo Ranging as Received by the Submerged Submarine
Torpedo - Recorded during a live torpedo launch
USS Pampanito Operating Equipment:
These recordings of equipment operating were recorded on WW II submarine USS Pampanito in 1995. Pampanito is now a museum in San Francisco. These sounds are Copyright (C) San Francisco Maritime National Park Association and may be used only for non-commercial purposes. Please contact Pampanito directly for any other use.
It is interesting to compare these through the air in the boat recordings to the sonobuoy "sounds other than propulsion" recordings taken through the water above.
Dive alarm. Klaxon sounds twice to dive, three times to surface.
General Quarters Alarm (Battle Stations)
ECM Mark II. U.S.A. WW II Electronic Cipher Machine. You first hear the wheels reset (zeroized), then switched to encrypt, then typing.
Torpedo Data Computer. First the position keeper is turned on, then the whirling noise after the angle solver is turned on.
GISR, Torpedo gyro setter in forward torpedo room. Note how at first it moves loudly and quickly, then after it locks with the TDC there are only small corrections.
Growler. Sound powered phone hand cranked call system.
Main Induction. First opening, then closing of the very large valve that supplies air to the boat on the surface.
Lube Oil Transfer Pump
Ventilation Blower. Note the two step start of the DC motor controller.
Main engine start. First the fuel oil pump and ventilation blowers are started. The the Fairbanks-Morse engine is turned over with compressed air until it starts. The governor cycles 3 times before catching and properly controlling the speed of the engine.
Raising, then lowering of a periscope.
SJ Radar Training Motor
Torpedo Tube Door. Closing of the outer torpedo tube door, recorded in the forward torpedo room.
Waterbury pump for bow planes in forward torpedo room.
Sounds in a torpedo tube while at the pier.
High Pressure Air Compressor. Hardie-Tynes air compressor. After startup note the change in sound as each of three stages is brought online.
Drain Pump. Note the hand crank DC motor controller.
Video from 1945 built ex-USS Steinaker, now ARM Netzahualcoyotl (Netza) made in 2006:
Background information and photos from this project to document a US steam destroyer may be found at: https://maritime.org/sound/mexico/index.htm
WW II POW Rescue Video:
During September of 1944, submarines USS Growler, USS Pampanito and USS Sealion attacked an Imperial Japanese convoy. Unknown to the Allies, there were over two thousand British and Australian prisoners of war aboard these ships. These were the survivors of the fall of Singapore and forced labor on the Burma-Thailand railroad ("Railway of Death"). Four days after the attack Pampanito returned to the area and found and rescued 73 of the prisoners of war. Sealion, Queenfish and Barb, were alerted and returned to rescue 86 more men. The boats had 16 mm periscope cameras that they used to film some of the rescue. The un-edited clips below are now in the US National Archives. RG 428-NPC-5864 (We are unsure which boat this is from.), RG 428-NPC-5865 (Pampanito), RG 428-NPC-5743 (Pampanito). Note that film clips appear in the order they were pieced together by the Navy and are now in the archives, not in the order in which events occurred. So for example, the film clips of the survivors being delivered safely in Saipan appear before their rescue.