Mysterious ‘booms’ recorded by Madison College student
Clintonville has been the center of attention for the last few weeks. Mysterious vibrations and audible “booms” have been disrupting life in the small town. The shaking is similar to an earthquake, although the episodes have been incredibly localized.
Madison College student Brian Sullivan was the first to capture an audible recording of one of the booms. The electronics student read the story online about three weeks ago, and took off right after class. With only a laptop and a digital recorder, he set out to record one of the mysterious “booms.”
“When I got there, I spoke to the chief of police and the city administrator as well as the county emergency coordinator” Sullivan explained. A map of reported occurances put together by Waupaca County U.S. Geological Survey helped him, as well.
One of the utility buildings was labeled as the main location for the instances. Citizens in the community had also reported hearing the booms at lower levels like basements. Sullivan directed himself to Olen Park, as it’s the lowest point in the city.
After two days of constant recording, Sullivan’s digital hand-held recorder caught a sizable, audible boom. He also had seismograph software running at the same time, and is hoping to consult a seismologist to help decode the data he collected.
Several seconds after the sound, Sullivan felt a physical vibration or shudder. Although the boom he felt was quite small, there are some reports of booms strong enough to have thrown people from a sitting position. “I was a considerable distance from where the reported incident came from,” Sullivan explained.
The distinct sounds coming from Clintonville are now being analyzed more closely by geologists. A sound wave is broken into three parts – the attack, the sustain, and the decay. The booms in Clintonville are unique because of their sharp attack. The sounds, according to Sullivan, have been described by geologists as shallow events, precisely because of this sharp, clear start to the noise that gives the effect of a gunshot or drum.
He continued, describing the boom. “It was clear when I heard it. It was very clear. But as with taking a photograph or video, the recording doesn’t have the definition of your eyes and ears.” He explained, “This had to be amplified quite a few times to get that distinct wave-form.”
In an effort to enhance Sullivan’s work, his Electronics instructor is providing more sensitive equipment. Michigan Tech is joining in the effort, as well. The college set up equipment about two weeks ago.
Students are using seismographs and microphones sensitive to extremely low frequencies. Sullivan’s recorded boom was at the very bottom of the human audible range. Hopefully there will be more information available through reading lower frequencies.
Sullivan has been working in Clintonville for a while, now. “I’m getting to know the town pretty well by now. I think I’ve spent around seven days there, now, total,” he said.
The Madison College student was glad for the background in electronics that he’s received here. “I’ve been working in audio engineering for about six years,” Sullivan explained. He was self-taught at a community radio station in Eau Claire, but he continued to explain how his experience in Madison has helped him in his work at Clintonville.
“Having an understanding of how the circuits actually work inside of a mixer allows me to think more intuitively about the way a signal flows,” he said.
Interested in telecommunications, Sullivan’s experience with the booms has sparked an interest in seismographic equipment. Watching the Michigan Tech students set up their equipment was inspiring to him.
Sullivan has described the last few weeks as “surreal,” from the new experiences and exploration to the media attention. Sullivan explained, “Trying to get competing news networks to work together was a little more challenging than I anticipated.”
At first, the networks were only interested in documenting the bustle around the events, avoiding trying to capture the audio altogether. Now that Sullivan has captured actual audio, though, the networks are eager to work with him. “It’s sort of an interesting reversal of roles,” Sullivan said.
The story in Clintonville is not over yet. The electronics student is hoping to continue working in the area. “I’m still anxious to get a better recording; something a little more awe-inspiring,” said Sullivan.