Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Didactic Label

When plate tectonics shift against each other in the earth, they send out vibrations. These vibrations occur in two forms, surface waves and body waves. Surface waves travel along the outside of the earth and may travel the length of the globe several times before completely dispersing. Body waves travel through the interior of the earth in two forms; Primary waves which compress and expand core materials in the direction the wave is traveling and Secondary waves which shake the material at right angels to their direction of travel. This is what we feel when we experience the shaking of an earthquake. Geologists record these waves using seismographic instruments. This data can be rendered in the form of a seismogram or audio recording. Since the movement of the earth emits sounds that are far below the human aural register the recordings must be played at high speed. This The sounds you are hearing are seismic impressions recorded by seven globally networked seismographs, mixed and mastered by J.T Bullitt; geologist and artist. This project was created by Hallie Chilton as a collaboration between both the Art Department and the Geology Department of Portland State University.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alarm Bells

Finally got my motion activated alarm today.  Unfortunately it only records 7 seconds of audio.  I would like to figure out how to prolong the playback but I am out of time and still have heard nothing from the geology IT person.  Audio is scratchy and pretty loud with no volume control.
I am also finishing up my geode easter eggs today so at least I will have something to show for this project.  It's good to have plan B in these scenarios.  I plan to hide them throughout the geology department noting each position, then do period walk throughs to see if they have been found.

Interdisciplinary art project

H. Chilton
3:57 PM (0 minutes ago)
to chulbe
I realize I have not checked in with you in a while so I wanted to let you know about my progress.  I wanted to thank you for your participation in this project and for getting me in touch with Mason.  He was able to give me some very useful information.  I was able to locate the desired audio clips for the project but unfortunately fell short on the electronics end of things.  I was unable to get a response from the person in charge of the seismograph computer so I went ahead and ordered a motion activated alarm with record and playback for audio.  The result is a little disappointing as the audio is scratchy and louder than expected with no volume control and the audio playback is only a seven second duration.  I would like to bring it by your office and see if you think it is worthwhile to have it mounted in the hallway.  
At this point I am resorting to plan B, the geode easter egg idea.  I would like to get your permission to place the eggs throughout the geology department.
Please let me know what you think

A little help

I met with Mason, a geology grad student on March 6th & 7th.  He gave me some basic information about seismographs and P waves and S waves which are created underground by plate tectonic movement.  This should be helpful in writing up a didactic label.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Still no word from the IT department.  My roomate promised to help me create the  motion activated device that could record and play back 1 minute of sound but he has been too busy to help.  I am getting frustrated.  Another friend found an alarm system online that fulfills the requirement, but does not list timed playback in the description.  I have ordered it anyway, with fingers crossed that it will be at least 30 seconds.  I have also received the CD from John Bullitt.  Each track is about 20 minutes long.  I am listening to it at this moment to figure out what section of track I will use.  If the alarm system works I think I would like to decorate it with rocks so it feels less like a cheap plastic device and more like a living organism.  The booklet that came with the CD has lots of useful information to use in my didactic label.  I also got an email from a grad student who is willing to help me with this.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


After listening to the links on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website, I have decided to go with the sounds created by John Bullitt, since they are far more epic.  I am still waiting for the CD he promised me to arrive in the mail but if I don't get it after my meeting with the Geology Department's IT guy I can use the links he forwarded me instead.

USGS Replies

Re: searching for audio clips of geologic sounds (CO)

Feb 21 (2 days ago)
to meGS-CVOLynnGS-G-CRlibraryArchive
Dear Hallie,

Well, that's an interesting request.

Of course, many "geologic" occurrences, such as an earthquake or volcanic eruption occur without audio recording devices nearby.

And other geologic processes, such as tectonic plate movements, occur very, very slowly and do not produce a particular "sound."

I will forward your inquiry to our USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory for their suggestions on an audio link to a volcanic eruption.

In addition, I am forwarding your request to Lynn Highland with our Landslide Information Center (in case they may have an audio clip of land movement).

And, I am referring your inquiry to our Earthquake Hazards Program for help in the "earthquake sound" department.

Hope this helps.

Cheryl O'Brien

(703) 648-5929

Transaction=GSFWHP2V [18FEB2012 01:21:26UTC]
Customer email:
Customer:         Halllie
Customer phone:   5033678485
Customer address:
5204 Ne 18th ave.
Portland, INT 97211
Subject:          USGS Libraries Program - PUBLIC Reference Request
Originating page:
Primary response:
gradelevel:              College
site:              external

USGS PERSONNEL: This email was generated through the Contact USGS system. When replying to the customer PLEASE BE SURE TO (Customers, please do not send email to archive_ask, as it will not be answered.) If you answer by phone, simply forward this email to You can see more information about replying to customers at <> (USGS only).

I am an art student at Portland State University, working on a collaborative project with our geology department.  I am searching for audio clips of geologic sounds ie: volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tectonic plate grinding, landslides, digging, drilling, etc.  Do you have any information on where I might be able to find something like this?

Lynn M Highland
Feb 21 (1 day ago)
to ASKmeArchiveCherylGS-CVOGS-G-CRlibrary
Dear AliceWhiskey,

The best compilation of landslide videos is at this link (many have sounds):

Dave Petley, owner of this blog is taking submittals of landslide videos and will be releasing a new "best videos" list soon - when, I'm not sure - there is a way to email him on his blog, if you want more information.

Let me know if you need more information,


Lynn Highland, Geographer
U.S. Geological Survey
National Landslide Information Center
MS 966, Box 25046
Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO  80225

From:ASK USGS, GS-CVO Info@USGS, Lynn M Highland/GD/USGS/DOI@USGS, GS-G-CR Hazards eq_questions, Archive Ask
Date:02/21/2012 08:33 AM
Subject:Re: searching for audio clips of geologic sounds (CO)
Sent by:Cheryl R O'Brien

Michael J Bennett
Feb 21 (1 day ago)
to lisaGS-NmeLynn
My name is Mike Bennett, I am a geologist with the Earthquake Science Center in Menlo Park, California, and I have been asked to help with your request for some geologic sounds that might have to do with drilling. About 10 years ago the liquefaction project here in Menlo Park was investigating the liquefaction hazard in Oakland, Alameda Co., California. We did some cone penetration testing (CPT) to define the soil layering and then followed that up with some soil borings using our Mobile B-50 small drill rig. The first video (with sound) shows the drill rig augering to about 5 m depth (Drill rig augering 1. MPG). After the auger was advanced to 5 m depth an standard penetration test (SPT) was made. This involves hammering a sampler into the soil using a 130 pound hammer. This second video (with sound) is called SPT testing.MPG. The person laying in front of the auger is counting the hammer blows as a mark passes the top of the auger. The video's were made by Tom Holzer.  

I hope this has been of some help.

This work is documented in.....
  • Holzer, T.L., Bennett, M.J., Noce, T.E., Padovani, A.C., and Tinsley, J.C., III, 2002, Liquefaction hazard and shaking amplification maps of Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Piedmont: A digital database: U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report 02-296,
  • Holzer, T.L., Bennett, M.J., Noce, T.E., Padovani, A.C., and Tinsley, J.C., III, 2006, Liquefaction hazard mapping with LPI in the greater Oakland, California, area: Earthquake Spectra, v. 22, no. 3, 693-708.
  • Holzer, T.L., Bennett, M.J., Noce, T.E., and Tinsley, J.C., III, 2005, Shear-wave velocity of surficial geologic sediments in Northern California: Statistical distributions and depth dependence: Earthquake Spectra, v. 21, no. 1, p. 161-177.

    Michael J. Bennett  
    Operational Geologist                
    Earthquake Science Center                  
    US Geological Survey
    345 Middlefield Rd. MS 977
    Menlo Park, CA  94025
    phone: 650-329-4890
    fax:   650-329-5163
    Earthquake Hazards web site:
    **All Federal e-mail is permanently archived**             

From:Lynn M Highland <>
Date:02/21/2012 08:50 AM
Subject:Re: searching for audio clips of geologic sounds (CO)

2 attachments — Download all attachments  
SPT testing.MPGSPT testing.MPG
1343K   Download  
Drill rig augering 1.MPGDrill rig augering 1.MPG
1342K   Download  
Lisa A Wald
4:22 PM (21 hours ago)
to MichaelmeLynnGS-N
Here's another webpage for earthquake sounds:

- Lisa
--------------------------Lisa Wald, Geophysicist
Web Project Manager
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
Golden, CO

<SPT testing.MPG><Drill rig augering 1.MPG>

Monday, February 20, 2012


After my meeting with the department chair I went online to try to find audio clips of earth sounds.  I couldn't find any free audio recordings but I did find this website
but since I couldn't verify the authenticity of these sounds I looked further
I found the website of the US Geological Survey
but I couldn't find a public audio library of seismic sounds.  I shot off an email to their librarian but as of this date I have not received a reply.
I kept looking and found this article on NPR.  Which lead me to the website of John Bullitt.  This was more in the vein of what I was looking for.  So I sent and email to him and got a very positive reply!

Art student from PSU seeks seismic audio recordings or advice

H. Chilton
Feb 18 (2 days ago)
to jt
I am an art student at Portland State University.  I am working on a collaborative project with our geology department and am trying to find audio clips of seismic activity and other related noises to use in an interactive display.  While searching the internet for leads on audio clips I ran into your interview on All Things Considered.  I followed the link to your website and am now wondering if you have any downloadable versions of your work that you would be willing to donate or sell for this project, or if you have any leads on other such audio recordings that I might be able to use.
Hoping your interest will be piqued,
John Bullitt
Feb 19 (1 day ago)
to me

Yes, my interest is definitely piqued! You are welcome to download and use any of the sounds on my website (see the "Earth Sound" section). Unfortunately, although you can play the sound clips directly from a web browser, it's a little hard to track down the actual links to the sound files (something I've been meaning to fix for ages, but never seem to find time to do). But if there are any of those sound clips that you'd like to download, just let me know which ones, and I'll send you the links to the mp3 files. (Alternatively, you can go to and use the "View source" feature of your web browser to examine the html code in that page. You'll see the paths to the mp3 files in there.) Meanwhile, here's a link to the 2011 Japan earthquake: . If you'd like any others, just let me know.

Meanwhile, if you'd like a copy of my "Earth Sound" CD, I'd be happy to send you one, gratis. Just give me your mailing address, and I'll send it out to you with Tuesday's mail. You're welcome to use sounds from the CD in your project, if you wish.

I'm assuming that this project isn't something that people will be paying money to see/hear, correct? If so, then all I ask is that you mention me somewhere in the credits. If it is a paid performance type project, then we'll need to discuss fees, licensing, etc.

I'd love to know more about this project, if you're willing to share. As for me, I'm working on developing a real-time system for listening to these low-frequency seismic sounds of Earth. Completion is still a long way off (tons of computer programming and engineering still to do), but when it's finished I think it'll offer an entirely new way of experiencing the Earth. Stay tuned!

       best wishes,