Mysterious hum keeping people up all night ‘could be mating fish’

A council investigation was launched in Hythe, Southampton after some people had to move away because of the drone ‘pulsating’ through their homes

Adam Withnall
Thursday 24 October 2013 08:53 BST
The Midshipman fish, which has been blamed for keeping people up all night with its mating rituals
The Midshipman fish, which has been blamed for keeping people up all night with its mating rituals (Getty Creative)

A mysterious hum has been keeping people in Hampshire awake all night, and scientists have said there could be something fishy about it.

The noise “pulsates” through homes, forcing some residents of Hythe near Southampton to evacuate the area just to get a good night’s sleep.

People have complained to their local council, and the blame has been put on everything from heavy industry to the large cargo ships coming in at Southampton Docks – some residents have even gone to the doctor thinking they had tinnitus.

Scientists now think that the noise is being caused by fish, competing to out-hum one another as part of an unusual mating ritual.

Male Midshipman fish let out a deep, resonating drone which attracts females and acts as a challenge to other males. They are nocturnal creatures, but once they get going can keep up the distracting hum all night.

Unfortunately for the residents of Hythe, the noise created by the Midshipman is of such a low frequency and long wavelength that it can carry through the ground, walls, and into homes.

This is not the first time fish have been blamed for keeping people up at night – a number of US cities suffer their droning on a regular basis.

But it was a problem which stumped various authorities in Southampton, including the National Oceanography Centre based there.

An investigation earlier this month launched by the Environment Agency and the New Forest District Council also produced no results, and it wasn’t until the Scottish Association for Marine Science waded in that a possible answer was found.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Dr Ben Wilson said: “It's not beyond the realms of possibility.

“There are certainly 'sonic fish' in the north Atlantic and the approaches to the English Channel.”

New Forest District Council received more than 30 complaints about the noise, with Linda Zammit from Woolston, Southampton, saying: “I thought I was going mad at first. I hear it every night unless it's windy or raining.

“It doesn't keep me awake but it stops me getting back to sleep if I do happen to wake up.”

Maria Dennett from Sholing, Southampton, said: “We regularly experience a humming noise at night.

“A few times we put it down to a neighbour's washing machine or dishwasher but it's happening so frequently that we know it's not the case.

“It's a really low pitched sound that literally pulsates through the house.”

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