Earlier this month, French freediver Guillaume Néry tweeted a weird sound from one of his recent dives and asked people to help him identify it. It sounds like a cross between whalesong and too many ghosts in the same haunted house.
Étrange son entendu hier après-midi lors d’une plongée.— Guillaume Néry (@guillaumenery) April 3, 2019
Jamais entendu ça. Une idée de ce que ça pourrait être ? pic.twitter.com/LmsiWWGlDO
Turns out it was part of a campaign by Sea Shepherd, the marine conservation organization—something Néry revealed 24 hours later. (Surprise! Or not, depending on how long you've worked in advertising.) But the sound itself is real, in its way, with origins as haunting as its pained echo.
Created by TBWA\Paris, "Sound of Sea" is composed of 30 different creatures in the throes of human-imposed death. A whale crying out as it's harpooned. Dolphins caught in nets. Panicked fish trapped in a trawler's net.
In other words, it's an audible scrapbook of trauma, amplified and juxtaposed to produce an SOS.
Sea Shepherd's hope is to get people to consume less fish instead of waiting for political action to stay the hands of industry, which could take years. A United Nations report, quoted by TBWA, finds that fish stocks in Asia may collapse entirely by 2048, fatally impacting the ocean's capacity to regulate climate and provide oxygen, which are sort of critical to human survival.
We're getting bee porn flashbacks. In all seriousness, though, it's trite to reduce "Sound of Sea" to a story of how humans may be affected.
Awareness has never been higher about the way we carelessly, and wastefully, pillage the planet like "an inexhaustible pantry" (TBWA's words) with little thought to keeping our fragile, interconnected ecosystems stable. It would be offensive to hear those ghostly acoustics without it ever crossing our minds that, hey, this isn't all about us.
It's about all the other life we hurt—life that merits continued existence, even if we don't directly, immediately or even ever profit from it.
The SOS was emitted from a beacon that was plunged into the ocean off La Rochelle, France, where Sea Shepherd's vessel the Sam Simon (named after the Simpsons' co-developer!) is on a mission to combat fishing vessels that catch dolphins in their nets.
Aptly, and somewhat related, producer Frank Doelger of Game of Thrones is working on a TV series based on the Frank Schätzing novel The Swarm. It's a thriller about the ocean, and what happens when its inhabitants decide to fight back. Grim stuff, frankly. But if we can hear "Sound of Sea" and feel neither alarm nor empathy, what are we if not villains?
Campaign: Sound of Sea
Advertising Managers: Lamya Essemlali, Coralie Defours
Account Manager: Matthéo Pressmar, Agathe Bruneau
Executive Creative Directors: Benjamin Marchal et Faustin Claverie
Copywriter: Josselin Pacreau
Art Director: Sebastien Guinet
Editing and Motion Graphic Design: Maxime Setzer
CEO: Maxime Boiron
Producer: Jennifer Bauche
Director of Production: Teva François
Post-production Producer: Florence Marquet
Production Coordinator: Léa Gosselin
Director: Jérôme De Gerlache
Sound Production: TBWA\Else
Head of Music and Sound: Olivier Lefebvre
Music Art Director: Ferdinand Huet
Sound director: Fabrice Pouvreau
Composer: Nicolas Neidhardt
Designer: Eddy Penot
Model Maker: Arnaud Benezit