The North Sea is one of the busiest seas in the world. Freight carriers, oil and gas drilling, fishing, sand winning — we exploit this continental flat as if it has never been reclaimed by the ocean. But even though we have designed efficient methods to harvest resources, the North Sea still remains a hostile environment to man, with very limited access. Mainly operating from the surface, we have little knowledge about the effects of our activities below the waves.

Seasynthesis is an ongoing research project that aims to provide access to the North Sea through listening. As sound travels five times faster through water compared to air, we gain a valuable understanding of the activity of both man, aquatic life and the planet, over a vast distance. Recording days on end, the first soundscapes provide an immense amount of data that is still being analyzed. In the shape of ambient noise, they tell us about earthquakes hundreds of kilometers away, weather patterns and the ever-flowing movement of water molecules. But predominantly, the recordings give us insight into the vast amount of sound man is creating in the North Sea, raising questions about the effect of sound intensity and frequency vibration on this place of the wild.

In a first effort to interpret the data, one recording file of 2.30 hours is translated into an immersive 8-channel composition, enabling man to transpose himself temporarily into the aquatic environment of the North Sea.

Hydrophone masterclass

Part of the project was a masterclass at MU Artspace, learning participants to construct their own underwater microphones. As an extension of the project, the class is promoting crowdsourcing data on sound in the sea. Institutions do not share their sound recordings; not with other institutions, nor with the public. The human impact on the ecology of the sea thus stays hidden, which is very convenient to those exploiting the grounds. By making listening to the underwater world easily accessible, I hope to enable the people to collectively monitor anthropogenic activities in the sea.


This project was the result of winning the Bio Art & Design Award 2017. In this award program, artists are matched with a scientific institute to pitch a proposal and when successful, winning a grant to execute the proposal together. My match was with sea research institute IMARES (Wageningen Marine Research) and I found a partner in Dr. Han Lindenboom. The plan was executed with sea research institute NIOZ.

For the project, a special hydrophone was constructed that was able to record independently and at depth. The hydrophone was attached to a lander, a structure invented and built by NIOZ for deploying scientific measuring devices. On board the famous research vessel 'Pelagia', the scientists set out to place the lander in the North Sea, far off shore, where the sea is rough and hostile still. After the structure was placed, the Pelagia set sail elsewhere to conduct research, only to return days later for pickup.