Friday, June 7, 2019

Peach Jam with Rosemary and Ginger Flavor, Multiple Batch Process

My aunt brought me a box of peaches from Barney last Friday. That's about 25 pounds. There were 79 peaches in there. I managed to use up a lot of them fresh, but 65 of them got made into jam. I made a video. (Music:

I live in a tiny house with no stove. My procedure does not comply with Georgia Cottage Food Law since I do all the cooking outdoors. I accept the risk of contaminating my product as I eat it all myself. If you have a full kitchen you can work entirely indoors for maximum food safety. And if you have a big stove you can use two burners at once and streamline your process.
Winter better be coming, because I am ready.
Recipe for two batches of jam:
On the first day:
Start a stock pot of water boiling.
Prepare an ice water bath and a bowl of ascorbic acid to reduce browning. This is for all the peaches, not split into two batches yet.
  • 4 teaspoons Fruit Fresh
  • 6 Tablespoons water
Mix in a large bowl.

Get 24 ripe peaches out of the refrigerator. Chilling them first makes this part nicer.
Drop 6 peaches into the boiling water and count to 30. Remove the peaches to the ice water bath.
Replace lid and let pot boil up while you peel the skin off the first 6 peaches. Roll them around in the ascorbic acid as you finish them. I wear food prep gloves for this part because the acid in the peaches makes my skin rough.

Repeat for all the peaches.

You get to sit down for this next part. Cut out the pits and slice up the peaches into chunks. I don't like to cut too close to the pit or it gets woody bits in the jam. Put all the peaches into the bowl with the ascorbic acid. I squeeze the pit over the bowl to get all the peach juice.
Mix the cut up peaches after every one to coat in the ascorbic acid.

After all the peaches are cut up split them between two bowls. Add flavorings (5 sprigs of rosemary and a handful of sliced ginger in each bowl. Also add a teaspoon of Angostura bitters.)
Add 1 cup of sugar to each bowl. Use this amount for each batch.
  • ~ 6 cups cut up peaches
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 + tablespoons sliced ginger
  • 1 tsp Angustora bitters
  • 1 cup sugar
Stir, cover, and refrigerate until the next day. Stir occasionally if you think about it.

Next day:
Start sterilizing jars. You need 7 half pint jam jars per batch of peaches. This low sugar jam doesn't last long when it's opened so I try not to make jars bigger than the 1 cup size. I ran out though so I used a few full pint jars. I may use that for cake filling so it gets used up all at once.

I use a silicone trivet in the bottom of a stock pot for my canning pot. Put 7 jars in the pot and start it boiling while you work on the peaches.

Take a bowl out of the refrigerator and pick out the rosemary sprigs and as much of the ginger as you see.
Scoop the cut up peaches into a food mill with the plate with large holes. Process all the peaches to a puree.
Repeat with the second bowl of peaches.
Measure out 6 cups of pureed peaches into a bowl. Repeat with another bowl.
Add citric acid and calcium water.
  • 6 cups peach puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 6 tsp calcium water
Check on jars and swap first batch for second batch to get them all sterilized.

Measure sugar and pectin into 2 bowls. Each bowl gets.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp pectin
Get all jars into the pot of boiling water and set it aside.

Put one bowl of peaches into the pot. Stir over high heat until it boils. (about 8 minutes)
Add one bowl of sugar + pectin. Stir and bring to a full boil (no more than 3 minutes)
Turn off the heat.
Remove 7 jars from the pot and fill them with the hot jam.
Add hot water to the jar lids to soften the glue
Wipe down the rim of the jars with a wet paper towel and put on lids and rings. Set these jars aside.
Wash the pot, funnel, and scoop.
Start the second batch of jam.
Heat and stir to boiling,
Add sugar and pectin in the second bowl.
Boil again.
Fill jars, add lids.
Put canning pot back on to boil.
When water is boiling add the first batch of jam jars.
Time 10 minutes.
Remove jars from the water bath.
Put the next batch of jars in.
Time 10 minutes.
Remove the jars from the water bath.
When all the jars have sealed, the lid has sucked down and gone PLINK! then you can unscrew the rings and dry the threads and wipe off the jars.

If you still have peaches left repeat this whole process. You already have a pot full of boiling water! You can start right away blanching more peaches. Repeat for as many days as you have peaches.

This process yields 1 half pint jam jar for every 1.75 peaches. These were quite large peaches I had this year. You can calculate your own yield after you do your first batch. I started with 17 peaches and then raised that number to 24 to make it come out even at 7 jars per batch.

Materials needed: You can get most of this stuff at Walmart. They sell the jar lifter, magnet on a stick, canning funnel, citric acid and ascorbic acid (branded as Fruit Fresh), jam jars and lids, and big plastic bowls with lids. I also got the crock pot there. My enameled cast iron jelly pot I got from Tuesday Morning.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Reusing a makeup mirror if one side gets broken

My niece Brenna was here last week with my brother. He picked her up from her dorm and came straight here. In the process of rearranging their luggage before driving back home to South Florida he broke her makeup mirror. She left it here and told me to throw it away. I can't just throw something away. It has parts I can save!

It would be lovely if these lighted mirrors had a circle light inside that I could use for shooting videos. That is not the case though. It's just two 20 watt bulbs behind some extra foil on the back of the glass.

The dimmer switch only controls one of the two bulbs.

The magnifying side of the mirror wasn't broken so I put a wire between the screw holes on the frame and hung it on the wall in my lab with some LED string lights behind it. Now if I get something in my eye I can see to get it out!

I'm saving the cord, lightbulbs, and dimmer. I'll just throw these in my bin of lamp making supplies in case I ever need them for a project. NOW I can throw the rest away.

Making a Fake Cake: Lessons Learned from Failure

I recently went off on a two week tangent from sewing work and did a deep investigation into papier-mâché (Or in easier-to-type Americanized spelling, paper maché.) Hat tip to Jonni at and her YouTube Channel. I love her. I also researched the art of making cold porcelain clay from scratch (glue and corn starch) and making that into flowers. This is also amazing. I like Christina Wallis's YouTube Channel for tutorials on how to make permanent flowers that look real.

I was interested in making an elaborate faux wedding cake with a plain cake underneath it. In my mind it would be glorious. And the reveal would be hilarious. It turns out nobody else got it. I made a prototype birthday cake version and the future bride was ambivalent about it. And somebody anonymously arranged with her caterer to pay for her wedding cake. So she went to meet with a baker the day after her birthday. I'm off the hook for wedding cake! But I did learn some things I'd like to record in case I need to use any of these techniques again later. Or if anybody has this same idea and has an actual need for the final product you can use what I learned to start out ahead. There is more work to be done, for sure.

What I learned that I didn't find online in other tutorials:
  • Hair coloring tools are great for paper maché work
  • You can make fake bark out of joint compound, bentonite, and Floetrol
  • Hat boxes actually aren't great for fake cake -- use the styrofoam like in all the tutorials
  • Plain All-Purpose sheetrock mud is the best fake icing


The first thing I tested was the idea to paint real leaves with some sort of polymer mixture, let it dry, then peel off the leaf. Voila, permanent decorative leaf. I started experimenting with ingredients I had on hand because my car was in the shop and I couldn't go get sheetrock mud to start the cake experiments. Things I mixed together:

  • Chalk like you use with a chalk line
  • Elmer's Glue
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Mineral Oil

I painted this stuff on beech tree leaves and dried it in the sun. 
Various formulations of setting plaster type ingredients
It was still spring and my leaves were pretty new. This made them curl up a lot when they dried out. It would be better to use mature leaves for this. 

The PVA glue made the molds stay flexible when they were peeled off. This was kind of weird. It mostly works though! If you really wanted to make a lot of green leaves it might be worth buying some granular white chalk. I found it online pretty cheap from soap suppliers. I started with bright blue chalk and added yellow paint until it was green. I shot video, but it didn't work well enough for me to want to edit it.
Faux leaves peeled off the real leaf after drying

Faux Icing:

The second thing I experimented with was what sort of product works best for fake icing on a fake cake.
  • All-Purpose Joint Compound -- The Winner. But you need to paint it after it's dry.
  • Lightweight Spackle -- looks grainy
  • Mixture of these and PVA glue -- ok if you want a glaze, otherwise useless
Plain sheetrock mud on a foam core rectangle. Top half painted with white acrylic paint.
I got a quart of Pro-Form All Purpose Joint Compound at Walmart. It was less than $4. It's important to mix it up really well before you use it. You need to put it on thin and let it dry between coats. I rushed my final project and it cracked from being too thick. But if you do it thin you can even polish it with a damp offset spatula just like icing.

The other things I tried weren't as good.

Lightweight Spackle
Lightweight Spackle mixed with Elmers Glue

Tree Bark Cake Plate

My niece has been pinning pictures of wedding cakes she likes and a lot of them have these logs under them. I looked up log cake stands on Etsy and they run about $100 including shipping. They're heavy. I have access to trees and thought about making some of these. This would help me rationalize why I'm making a fake cake, as a prop to pose on my log cake plates. I can't get anybody to saw my logs for me though, so I'm not doing that anymore.

If anybody really wants a heartwood cake stand I would take that commission. It will cost about $500.

I think the bark is the thing people want though and that's not really the kind of trees I have in the 13" diameter range. I have Longleaf pine. There are green pine cookies on Etsy, which kind of freaks me out. All that sap! If I made one out of aged heartwood the sap would be crystalized and the wood wouldn't check. But it would weigh twice as much as these ones that are all sapwood and bark.

I decided to incorporate the log base into my cake cover idea. I got a styrofoam wreath form at the craft store that was bigger than one of my hat boxes. But first I have to test some ideas for how to make bark. 

Sassafras bark with a Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar

Paper maché boxes were on sale at the craft store store so I got some small ones to experiment on. My first attempt at faux bark was simply the cheapest toilet paper I could get at the grocery store torn into little pieces and stirred together with methyl cellulose. I had some of that already mixed up. (I bought the powder on ebay a couple of years ago to use for marbling paper. I gather from Jonni from that Elmer's markets methocel as paper maché paste. Here it is on Amazon.)

  • Shredded toilet paper
  • Methyl cellulose (methocel)

White bark look on paper mache box lid, just toilet paper and methylcellulose
This could be pretty if you were going for an all-white look.

But I wanted something barkier. I found a technique for throwing clay pots where the artist would throw a pot on the wheel then heat the outside with a torch and then enlarge the pot some more, which made the outside crack like bark. Neat! Well, I have some clay that does that all by itself, that expansive bentonite clay they sell at the health food store for facials. So I tried mixing that with methyl cellulose and put it directly on a paper maché hat box lid.
Looks neat, flakes off

It looked cool, but it didn't stick to the paper underneath. So I picked it all off and tried something else.

Magical ingredients in bark clay
I tried one part joint compound, one part expansive clay, just gauging by eye, and enough Floetrol acrylic paint additive to make it a useable consistency. I just smooshed it onto the surface with the plastic spoon I stirred it with and sort of made peaks in it like you would do with chocolate cake icing.

Wet bark
Dried bark on the first experimental prototype.

That worked great.

Here's how it looks paired with a prototype fake cake with out-of-scale cold porcelain molded flowers. I dry brushed a little white paint on the bark to accentuate the texture.
Mini Fake Cake
Because of the texture of the fake icing I had to use hot glue instead of tacky glue to attach the flowers. It looks pretty bad. If you are doing this for real be patient and use tacky glue and not hot glue. Maybe even put glue on the flowers and push them into the wet joint compound. But I'm moving on anyway.

Time to scale it up and do one big enough for an actual cake. Here's my plan:

Hat box and styrofoam wreath form fit check
I decided one problem with those tree cookies people are using for cake plates is they would be really hard to pick up. They need some kind of hollowed out place for you to get your fingers under there. So I incorporated that into my styrofoam version.

The next problem is that hat boxes are sort of flimsy and won't stay round. Flexing would crack the faux icing for sure. So to stabilize the shape of the paper maché box I cut a groove into the sytrofoam for the box to push down into.

Groove to stabilize the hat box shape
I need to cover the styrofoam with paper maché. I used torn up kraft paper and school glue watered down. I used my hair coloring bowl and brush for this. That works great. I decided to use newsprint for the top since I had some. I cut it into rings the right size and clipped the edges to go around the curves.
Plan out the paper covering for the top of the log
I drew tree rings on the paper with a pencil. Since I didn't know if this was going to work I didn't strive for perfection. Only proof of concept.

Draw tree rings on the part that will show
Black construction paper for underneath the bark

I covered the outside with black construction paper pasted on with Elmer's school glue watered down enough to make it brushable. Jonni from the paper maché videos would probably use flour paste but in South Georgia that sounds like a disaster of bugs and mold. She says she doesn't like the way it feels when PVA glue dries on her hands. I didn't notice it ever getting a chance to dry on my skin.

I pasted on the newsprint tree rings and the inner covering after the black paper. I let that dry in front of the air conditioner overnight. Then I added a layer of tan tissue paper over the penciled lines. That gave me the subtle effect of tree rings I was after. It's kind of wrinkly though. I had wrinkles in my newsprint so I knew it was going to be inferior. If you really need to make something like this and want it to look good there are lots of decoupage techniques that could make this look amazing. Do more than what I did.
Add tissue paper over the tree rings for a more realistic wood look
All that paper and paste work took a long time. If you get into this be sure you have a good audio book and nothing to disturb you. You can't pick up the phone when you have this stuff all over your hands. When you add water to Elmer's it makes it take an amazingly long time to dry. It's kind of nice so you don't have to rush to get back to an overlapping edge. I expect Mod Podge would work for this too but Elmer's is cheaper and doesn't smell as bad to me.

When it's all dry you can move on to the bark. I optimistically started to mix this in my hair color bowl then realized it was too small and moved it to a big mixing bowl. I thought about using an electric mixer but I didn't do it. I just stirred it with a rubber spatula.
Sheetrock mud, clay, and Floetrol
The mixture was kind of weird, not as muddy as the first batch I made. I may have used more sheetrock mud in this version? Not enough Floetrol? The proportions could stand to be refined. This had a putty like consistency so I sort of patted it on the sides.
Squishing the bark mixture on the sides
While the bark was drying I moved on to painting the inside of my hatbox. I did a few coats of white acrylic paint. I wanted to seal it so I could wipe off any icing that might get on it and so I could be sure it's clean before I put it over a cake.
Paint the inside of the hat box

At this point in my experiment my niece was in Beachton to visit and had already seen what I'd made so far and expressed zero interest in this concept. So I was just finishing it for the sake of finishing it at this point, knowing I wouldn't go any farther with this idea. I hot glued the hat box into the wreath shape and slathered it with sheetrock mud. I did it way too thick and I knew it was going to crack. I was on a clock and I just didn't care.

Now, how does this actually work IRL? I ordered an 8" cake from the grocery store app on my phone. I asked for nothing but the plain icing, no decorations. I froze it for a few days. After it thawed out I tried using my offset spatula to make the kind of texture Kate likes in a cake. That didn't work either. My failure spiral is expanding. But I shall press on with the experiment and put it under my new spit cake.

Kate asked me to digitize the video from her second birthday party. This forced me to closely examine how much she spit on her Winnie the Pooh cake back in 1998. This should motivate some people to make a fake cake like this just for kids parties.

What I would do better if I did this again:

  • Make the bark mix wetter so it could be put on like the prototype, with peaks in the application.
  • Put some expansion joints in the bark from the beginning so it gets more vertical cracks than horizontal cracks
  • Use a more subtle color than black for the background
  • Add a bit or paint to the bark mix to get a darker color
You could do a lot of colors and make the bark have realistic lichen on it and stuff, but for a cake I sort of liked the texture minus color. The all white bark prototype looked really elegant to me. I might try to refine that a little bit with some paper pulp and expansive clay and white paint. If I had the need for such a thing. 

Smooth icing and white paper pulp bark cake plate

White cold porcelain flowers on the white cake

This little prototype is sort of the proof of concept of the all-white elegant cake look. I don't know why anybody would want to combine elegant with rustic in this way, but it's oddly compelling to me. Somebody should do it full scale in a bakery window and let me know what kind of response you get.

I also think hat boxes are just too flexible. For doing a tree tier fake cake I thought about reinforcing them with sections of cardboard tubing cut on my chop saw. Hot glue these inside and have your three tiers not go all saggy in the middle.
Top view three hat box stack with cardboard tube pillars
I think for a display cake for a shop window or a prop cake for photos the actual styrofoam cake forms at the craft store would be a better option than hat boxes. I didn't buy them because they were just so expensive. I was reserving that option for the contingency that my niece actually wanted this. Fortunately I was able to end the project after the fun research phase.

Styrofoam cake forms at the craft store
I haven't said much about my experiments with cold porcelain. That's because I mixed up a batch and made it work but my plan for actually making flowers required the participation of some of my nieces with strong hands and a love of squishing things. There is too much kneading required for my current state of arthritis. It's neat though! You can make realistic looking flowers and they don't die. And they don't contaminate a real cake either. You don't even need a fake cake to use fake flowers.

My problem with real flowers on a cake:

  • Latex floral tape to wrap the flower stems. I'm allergic to latex.
  • Serving the cake is complicated by needing to remove the decoration first
  • The plated cake looks gross if there's been stuff stabbed into it
  • Flowers have to be added at the last minute so they don't wilt
I have made a wedding cake with real flowers on it. But I arranged them in a ramekin and just plopped them on top after all the icing was done. I was a lot younger then and could squeeze an icing bag to make a lace pattern icing which was popular back in the '90s. It was easy to just lift off the arrangement and cut the cake. What is popular now is flowers flowing down the sides. I can't help thinking that's going to look yucky on the inside. Square cake back in the kitchen, fake cake with all the flowers you want out by the buffet. That sounds good to me! But I'm not having a wedding. Ever. Hell no. Yuck.

Friday, September 14, 2018

If I'm invisible how'd I get caught?

You know that story about the bank robber who couldn't believe that he was recognized on security camera footage? "But I wore the juice!" He thought that lemon juice rubbed on his face would make him invisible, because of that trick where you write with lemon juice as invisible ink. The recipient of the secret message is supposed to know to heat it up with a candle to make the writing appear. (This bank robber led David Dunning to run the tests that would prove the existence of the Dunning-Kruger effect. But that's not what this is about.)

Today I had my Vimeo channel taken down. I had over 100 videos from up to 12 years ago, mostly nature videos. I used to like to pick the perfect song to go with 2 minutes of some animal doing something, like a White Oak snake trying to make himself look big or a spider hunter wasp digging a hole in the sand. The one that got me taken down was a Mason Wasp carrying a cutworm. I have no idea what song I used. But some automated bot decided that video from around 2006 with 8 views deserved a DMCA copyright takedown.

So here's the thing. These videos weren't public. They were private. Only people with the link could see them. I am all about the rights of creators to not have their work product stolen. But I thought it was ethically acceptable to respectfully use a song to accompany a video with full credit given. I mean ethically acceptable to do it for my own personal use, not for any kind of commercial reason.

It would NOT be ok to upload a piece of music to a streaming service that had no additional creative input. I mean, I shot the video and edited it to match the song. I did some creative work. I thought of it as fair use as the little nature videos were for teaching about the behavior of these animals. Granted it wasn't teaching anything about that piece of music which is what the legal definition of fair use probably means.

I'm saying I felt like it was ethically ok, not necessarily legally ok. So now that I've been legally reprimanded, I will quietly accept my punishment.

But it sure does sting. People steal my rocket video and upload it verbatim to their channels on YouTube all the time. They don't do anything creative. Just straight up steal it. And if I happen to find out about it through a link in a Daily Mail article and I file a DMCA takedown then they get mad and retaliate against me, filing false takedowns for videos that were 100% legitimately mine with no music even.

I have no recourse against malicious retaliation on YouTube. I'm not big and important enough for YouTube to accept email from me so they can check the evidence in the claim and see that it is specious. I was kind of impressed that Vimeo actually read my email this morning where I basically asked for verification that private videos were subject to takedown. They sent me a letter back that basically says I should have known better, the law is the law. But it doesn't explain exactly how the bots are able to scan the private videos. I guess Vimeo made a deal with the big publishers to let them go after people like me. I wonder how that's working out for them?

After I got the email from Vimeo I heard a noise in my yard so I went out to investigate. I must have just missed the timber cruiser on a UTV. I could see tire tracks running out through the woods between my house and my lab. Sonofabitch drove down my footpath and took off where my gopher hatchling lives.
Gopher Tortoise hatchling. Still has his egg tooth

Gopher tortoise hatchling with hand for scale
This is not how being invisible is supposed to work! I stay out here so I can protect these woods. But apparently I'm invisible and I can't even stop people from tearing around in the woods between my obvious actual dwellings when I'm here! And when I make videos for my own amusement or to share with people interested in nature, big corporations can apparently still access them to punish me for even making them in the first place.

It's becoming increasingly hard to rationalize my existence. But before I cease to exist and my creative legacy is deleted off the internet I have to go through all my old archive hard drives and find where I saved those movies I made. I don't have them on either the 1 TB drive in my computer or the 2 TB drive of my photo archives. Maybe they're in an old iTunes archive in the house. Or maybe I lost them altogether. I loved those little videos. They made me happy. And I want them back.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

No Such Thing As A Term Paper

On this week's No Such Thing As A Fish podcast, Number 222, James's fact at 33 minutes into the recording is this:  “The Gulf Corvina fish has such loud sex that it can deafen dolphins”

I found the article he was referencing, A sound worth saving: acoustic characteristics of a massive fish spawning aggregation, by Brad E. Erisman, Timothy J. Rowell

Here's a tweet with a picture of the Gulf Corvina

At time stamp 41:17 James talks generally about sound underwater, something I have thought about a lot.
James: But I think the problem was that Jacques Cousteau did a documentary, didn't he, in 1956 called The Silent World. It was all about the underwater. But basically his diving tanks masked all the sounds of the water. So he was like, "Oh, it's so quiet in here." And actually that's just where his microphones were. So lots of people thought it was really quiet, but like you say, Anna, it's loud as hell, isn't it?
Anna: "It's not {really quiet} is it? Even though it doesn't work very well with our ears. Because I thought this was really interesting. So sound waves, because they travel a different way in water to how they do in air, and we've got air in our ears, that's why sound is messed up for us underwater, but that's also why whales, you know they have huge amounts of wax in their ears, so you see whale's ear wax, it comes many many inches long ear wax, and that's kind of the same density as water so that means that the sound waves can travel into their ears and they'd be fine. But it's assumed, that if they came up onto the surface they'd be deaf in air."

This is definitely a different way to explain acoustics than anything I encountered in any of my college courses on the subject.

In addition to the Cousteau documentary they mentioned on No Such Thing As A Fish, there was also a book. An autobiography in fact, called The Silent World. I referenced it in a term paper I wrote in graduate school 11 years ago. I can't find the final version of the paper on my hard drive, but I did find these notes that went into it. In keeping with the Quite Interesting tone, here are a collection of facts about underwater hearing and noise and evolution.

Notes for an Oceanography term paper on underwater hearing for FSU around 2007:

Man is an egotistical explorer. Direct observations are limited to the range of the human senses, judgments are based on the human experience. Sensory perception evolved in vertebrates to improve their chances of survival. Because avoiding predators is key to the survival of any individual, hearing developed into the most important warning sense, species by species. Modern human beings can go through their civilized days without needing to know the wavelengths of light they perceive or the frequency of the sound that they hear. While it is common knowledge that dogs have a keener sense of smell than people and can hear high pitched whistles that are silent to our ears, we tend to anthropomorphize our pets and forget our inferiority. It is a bad habit, particularly when making new discoveries. A more modest approach to exploration may reveal an even more complex and beautiful world. This is particularly true when we invade a space where the physics don't match our evolutionary environment. We evolved in the air, not in the water. Here marine mammals have taken a full evolutionary step past us. They experience the world in a way we can only appreciate if we open our minds beyond the limits of our own senses and use our instruments to simulate what they take for granted.

Captain Jacques Cousteau of the French Navy made a great contribution to oceanography with his co-invention of the aqualung and regulator. The physiology of diving was already well researched, particularly by the US Navy, but freeing the diver from his upright posture and hoses to the surface was a breakthrough. Unfortunately the ability to move as freely as the fish, indeed, the ability to freely spear the fish, gave Jacques Cousteau a false impression that he was superior to the creatures of the sea. In his autobiography, "The Silent World," he reveals his strange attitude. "The sea is a most silent world. I say this deliberately on long accumulated evidence and aware that wide publicity has recently been made on the noises of the sea. Hydrophones have recorded clamors that have been sold as phonographic curiosa, but the recordings have been grossly amplified. It is not the reality of the sea as we have known it with naked ears. There are noises under water, very interesting ones that the sea transmits exceptionally well, but a diver does not hear boiler factories." (Cousteau 1953 p. 242)

The hearing loss experienced by human subjects underwater is comparable to those who have an eliminated middle ear, such as because of a radical operation. This constitutes a loss of about 60 dB. (Note that a high quality pair of shooting ear muffs only provides about a 34 dB reduction.) The loss of direction sensation is also expected underwater because of the head and hearing organs being so close to the density of water. Sound localization depends on the two ears working separately. Audiograms made underwater by DeHaan in 1956 and Hamilton in 1957 confirmed the theoretical 60dB hearing loss. In the frequency range of 1000 Hz to 16,000 Hz determination of direction was impossible. Neither the distance between the observer and the source of sound, not the type of sound, namely short pulses or sweep tones, made any difference. (DeHaan 1960).

"The creatures of the sea express fear, pain and joy without audible comment. The old round of life and death passes silently, save among the mammals -- whales and porpoises. The sea is unaffected by man's occasional uproars of dynamite and ships' engines. It is a silent jungle, in which the diver's sounds are keenly heard -- the soft roar of exhalations, the lisp of incoming air and the hoots of a comrade. One's hunting companion may be hundreds of yards away out of sight, but his missed harpoon may be clearly heard clanging on the rocks, and when he returns one may taunt him by holding up a finger for each shot he missed."  (Cousteau 1953 p. 242) Jacques Cousteau wasn't just wrong about sound in the sea, he was kind of a jerk.

Since accepted wisdom is that life originated in the water, it follows that hearing developed there as well. This formation of a sensory apparatus for hearing probably began with the tactile sense, followed by a nervous system, lateral line organ, and finally organs that we think of as the inner ear. Some of the fishes, the most highly developed vertebrates, were able to transition to life on land. Underwater hearing became air hearing, reaching the pinnacle of performance in mammals. (DeHaan, 1960)

Hearing in mammals is the most important source of information on what is happening at a distance. The eye is limited by obstacles that would block a line of sight, where sound would refract around it.  Hearing does not depend on sunlight. Unlike smell it doesn't require the proper wind direction.  The ear gives information first and most rapidly, and is therefore the most efficient warning organ (DeHaan 1960).

Imagine a pool full of children playing Marco Polo. As the other children call out to blindfolded Polo, he flails about to tag them. He is usually dead accurate in guessing which way to turn and how far to jump, the only real challenge being that all the Marcos jump out of the way. This game is an ideal use of the ear for localization. First of all, everybody in the game is calling out at ear level and splashing right on the surface of the pool. Ears on the sides of the head make us really good at localizing sound all around the same plane as our ears, and particularly in front of us where the outer ear reflects sound into the ear canal with maximum efficiency. Our ears do not work nearly as well for localizing sounds in the vertical plane. It's logical to suppose that in our evolutionary past, most of our predators were coming at us from the ground and not attacking from the air. Another reason Polo has an advantage is because the frequency of the human voice falls right in his peak sensitivity to sound. We lose sensitivity at the low and high end of our spectrum, which encompasses 11 octaves, from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

Although our brain does it automatically without our realizing it, there are two main ways people listening in air can localize sounds, the difference in time of arrival of a sound at the two ears, and the difference in the spectrum of the sound reaching the two ears. Both of these depend on the distance between the ears and the sound shadow of the head and the outer ear.  (Heffner 1980) The spectral difference of the sound involves the phase of the individual frequencies that add together to make the sound wave. This is important at low frequencies where the wavelength is large relative to the size of the head. At about 1500 Hz, the frequency of maximum sensitivity in human hearing in air, the wavelength is just right to make the phase of the waveform the same at both ears. It is very difficult to localize this pitch. Fortunately for Polo, children don't yell in pure tones.

Now imagine all these children put on scuba gear and tried to play Marco Polo. They'd get disgusted and go inside to play video games within ten minutes. They could still holler underwater, but they would barely be able to hear each other. The sound of their bubbles and the kicking and splashing would seem louder than their voices. The one with a blacked out face mask would have no idea if somebody was above him or below him or left or right, if he could hear them at all.

Mammals returned to the water after they evolved to life on land. By considering how their anatomy changed as a result of evolving to marine life, we may better appreciate why human beings are poorly equipped to appreciate the underwater soundscape with the naked ear. All the mammals still have similar inner ears, with a cochlea and basilar membrane described by standing wave physics. It is the pathways to get vibrations into the cochlea that show the most evolutionary difference in the marine mammals and man. The Cetaceans (whales) and Sirenians (manatees and dugongs) are said to share a common ancestor with modern ungulates, the cud-chewing cows and hippopotamuses. The bottlenosed dolphin has a fascinating anatomy for hearing and sound creation, including the ability to mimic sounds it hears, and a sound path to the inner ear through a hollow jaw full of specialized fat. For echolocation, dolphins produce and hear frequencies 3 octaves above the human frequency range, similar to bats. (Verbal, Nowacek) While the dolphins were evolving this predatory advantage, some of their prey were keeping up. While most fish can detect sound to 1-3 kHz, herrings may have evolved to hear echolocation at 180 kHz to avoid predation. (Popper 2000)

Dolphin hearing may be advanced too far beyond humans to make a good comparison. We are only now beginning to decipher the physics of their auditory system. Studying dolphin psychoacoustics could prove even more astonishing. For a simpler anatomy comparison to humans, it would be logical to look at marine mammals that have evolved to live part of their life on land and part underwater.

The evolutionary ancestors of the sea lions and the walruses were small flippered mammals with dense underfur like modern day fur seals. They fed along the coastline, hauling prey onshore to eat. Evolutionary changes in these marine newcomers to accommodate to life in the water included enlarged eyes and circulatory and ear adaptations for prolonged and deep dives. Directional sensitivity to underwater sound was not developed. Sharing a common terrestrial ancestor with bears, the extinct pinnipeds called enaliarctids likely lived all over the coast of the North Pacific until 16 million years ago. (Repenning 1976) As far as hearing underwater goes, we aren't even on an even playing field with an animal that went extinct 16 million years ago. We can't close our ears to the water with special tissues that react uniquely to pressure.

The desmatophocids are a formerly abundant seal that evolved from the enaliarctids, surviving until about 9 million years ago. These creatures were much larger than their ancestor, an advantage in holding heat in cold water, particularly as they adapted to life away from the coast. They are believed to have enjoyed improved directional underwater hearing because the entire ear structure was much more specialized than the enaliarctid ear, with many of the modifications specifically related to isolating the two ears from one another. Acoustical advantages in modern sea lions and walruses, particularly major flat areas on the skull favoring sound reception from selected directions, were missing in this ancestor. (Repenning 1976)

The bony structure and the soft anatomy associated with it has two functions, protection against pressure and sensitivity to sound. The enaliartids had adaptations that indicated it was a deep diver, but few adaptations were for directional sensitivity. 12 million years ago walruses developed directional underwater hearing advantages, and the sea lions 8 million years ago. The walruses are supposed to have undergone a reverse evolution when they changed to a shallow-water bottom feeding lifestyle, losing some of the deep diving protective adaptations, perhaps with improved air hearing as a benefit. (Repenning 1976)

In air, the human outer ear serves to reflect sound waves and direct them into the ear canal, assisting with locational clues, and performing somewhat as an amplifier. The sea lion's ears may serve the same purpose out of the water. In the water, the outer ear loses its function. The density being so similar to water, vibrations pass right through it with no reflection. Furthermore, at low frequencies, underwater sound vibrates the whole skull, including the two hearing organs. In air the middle ears move separately with respect to the inner ear and skull. (DeHaan 1960) This is why it is important that the marine mammals evolved to isolate their inner ears from receiving vibrations from all directions through tissue similar in density to the seawater. Mapping the density of layers of tissues in the heads of marine mammals is a useful technique for modeling acoustic pathways to their inner ear. Studies of this type in manatees recently revealed some previously unknown underwater hearing adaptations. (Verbal, Marie Chapla, 2006)

Even before all these discoveries into the adaptations in hearing anatomy in underwater mammals were made, back in the time of Captain Cousteau's early aqualung diving adventures, scientists were paying attention to the sounds these mammals were making. In a paper in Science, February 1949, William Schevill and Barbara Lawrence of Harvard described sounds of beluga whales heard on underwater listening apparatus. At the time, only the toothed whales were known to make noise at all. The songs of the humpbacks weren't known until later. The listeners, watching the whales with field binoculars, reported  high-pitched resonant whistles and squeals, ticking and clucking sounds, mewing and chirps. Some of the sounds were bell-like, indicating a build up of overtones. Some sounds suggested a crowd of children shouting in the distance. There were sharp reports, and the trilling that gives the beluga the nickname "sea canary".  The author admits it is notoriously difficult to adequately describe unfamiliar sounds. (Schevill 1949) {This study was done in the area of the St. Lawrence Estuary, where these beluga whales are now so contaminated with heavy metals their carcasses have to be treated as hazardous waste. (Verbal, Nowacek 2006)}

Fifty years since this attempt to describe the cetacean sounds, Australian scientists studying fish calls described four sounds fish make -- pop, trumpet, drumming, banging. They suppose several biological reasons for making these sounds: reproductive displays, territorial defense, feeding sounds or echolocation. There is also physical noise -- sea noise, rainfall, breaking surf, seismic noise, low frequency swell, and ice movement (McCauley 2000)

Humans are used to living in a sound field characterized by architectural acoustic concepts such as reverberance and liveness. (Shroeder, 1966) Reflected and diffused sounds make up a large part of our perception of the world around us. Sound reflects off objects underwater exceptionally well, as evidenced by the success of sonar. The 4 to 5 times increase in the speed of sound means that sounds reflected off objects in our range of sight would reach our ears so fast our brain wouldn't perceive it. A psychoacoustic phenomenon known as the precedence effect causes humans to lump all amplitude reduced sounds delayed by up to 35 milliseconds together with the initial sound, even if the second comes from another direction. By 70 milliseconds this breaks down and we begin to recognize an echo. This ability to recognize echos at all is related to separation of sound between the ears -- each ear having a slightly different input. (Wallach 1949) Since one of the primary difficulties man has in hearing underwater is that his whole head vibrates together, that may turn out to be even more important than the delay effect when it comes to detecting reflected sound underwater with the naked ear. "Things seem one-fourth nearer than their actual distance, a deceitful perspective caused by the refraction of light passing from water to air though the glass plate. On my first dive I reached for objects, saw my hand fall short and was dismayed at my shrunken flipper of an arm. ... It takes practice to automatically correct distance and size." (Cousteau, 1950 p.252.) Oddly, there has been no sport diving apparatus developed for the ear. (There's no telling what the Navy has invented for their divers.)

Snapping Shrimp section:

"Syrian fisherman select fishing grounds by putting their heads down into their boats to the focal point of the sound shell that is formed by the hull. When they hear creaking sounds they cast nets. They believe that the sound somehow emanates from rocks below, and rocks mean fish pasturage. Some marine biologists suppose the creaking sound comes from thick thousands of tiny shrimps, scraping pincers in concert. Such a shrimp in a specimen jar will transmit audible snaps. But the Syrians net fish, not shrimps. When we have dived into creaking areas we have never found a single shrimp." (Cousteau 1953, p 243-244)

The Syrians use the hulls of their boats to amplify the noise from the water and compensate for the 99.9 % power loss from water to air. They told Captain Cousteau that they cast their nets because they believe the area has the sort of rocky cover that draws fish, getting right to the point of the matter. Snapping shrimp also like rocks with a lot of hiding places, so it seems to be the most basic A=B, B=C, therefore A=C sort of logic. The fact that Captain Cousteau never found a single shrimp is a testament to the snapping shrimps penchant for hiding. According to Johnson, Everest, and Young's research in 1947, "They are notably secretive and demand ready-made or easily maintained burrows. Hence, they seek concealment in crevices and holes provided by coral, stones, shells, calcareous algae, and other solid objects. It has been demonstrated repeatedly by collectors that they live preponderantly on these bottom types. This habit renders collecting very difficult in most instances, especially when a dredge must be used. Hence the animals are far more abundant than generally realized." It is possible these are the marine biologists Cousteau were referring to, as this research came out before Cousteau's autobiography, although F. Alton Everest, one of the co-authors, was a Physicist at the Naval Ordinance Lab and went on to become the author of the most important acoustic textbook in the US, and is not a marine biologist at all. In Captain Cousteau's defense, the snapping shrimp noise is not as pronounced in the areas where he did the majority of his diving. Mediterranean species Typton spongicola were cited as species capable of snapping that are found in the Mediterranean, but they were not considered numerous in 1947.

Though the extreme level of noise, 30 dB higher than state 1 sea noise*, produced by "thick thousands of tiny shrimps, scraping pincers in concert" has been well known for over half a century, the details of the snap are still coming to light. The noise is not in fact made by scraping pincers at all, but is caused by the popping of a cavitation bubble produced by the rapid movement of the claw. In 2001 researchers at the University of Twente found that the bursting bubble also produced a burst of light. The burst of light is not itself biologically important, being shorter than 10ns and not bright enough to see with the naked eye. It is simply an indicator of the power in the shrimp's snap. The shock wave caused by the bubble collapse is now thought to be capable of stunning prey, not merely scaring away predators. ( (Find article in Nature, OCT 2001) *State 1 sea noise refers to the sound generated by waves that are still growing because of the wind, with crest to trough height of less than 30 cm high.

Lautenschlager 1983
During World War I torpedo boats worked over the battle fleets. It wasn't until after the war that fleet destroyers were equipped with active acoustic detection devices developed first by the Royal Navy as ASDIC and later by the U.S. Navy as Sonar.

Kritzler 1952 Pilot whale at Marineland
High pitched squealing or whistling similar to the three species of dolphins in the tank. Small quantities of air escape as it makes the noise. Used at times of excitement, whether due to fighting, fright, pain, or competition for food. Blow hole smacking noise made in air at times of comparative tranquility when the pilot whale was resting. Third type of noise was a kind of raspberry followed immediately by a breath. Fourth sound was inaudible in air but easily detectable with a hydrophone, reminiscent of a large door slowly swung on rusty hinges. Most noteworthy pilot whale sound was unlike any made by dolphins. Peevish whining of a child, or crying of young porcupines or beavers. Only heard when the whale would elevate its snout higher than normal. Easiest to hear at night when it was quiet, or at any time with the hydrophone.