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Dispatches : Adventure Lab

World's Largest Natural Sound Archive, by the Numbers

Shutterstock_107677163What an ostrich sounds like. What an ostrich chick in an egg sounds like. Photo: Shutterstock

You might know what an ostrich sounds like because you watched that episode of Dirty Jobs, but do you know the sound an ostrich chick makes as it's trying to crack out of its egg? There's now a place online where you can find out.

On January 15, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced that it had converted its Macauley Library sound archive into a digital catalog that anyone can click. "Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world," said Macaulay Library director Mike Webster. "Now, it’s also the most accessible."

The institution said the new digital archive will help expert and amateur birders and other naturalists train, offer video and audio editors a place to find specific sounds, and allow the library to assemble a larger collection. "Now that we’ve digitized the previously archived analog recordings, the archival team is focusing on new material from amateur and professional recordists from around the world to really, truly build the collection," said audio curator Greg Budneyaid.

Here's a bit more about the sounds that have been collected and digitized, with a selection of some of the best recordings and a look at the numbers.

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A Whole Lot of Skateboard Speed Records and Crashes—in 1 Film

Once a year, from 1975 to 1978, skateboarders in pursuit of speed and recognition gathered in Signal Hill, California, to race down a roughly 30-degree slope. Actually, after the first couple of years, contestants in the annual Signal Hill Speed Run weren't so much skateboarders as speed junkies in small-wheeled crafts of variable designs bombing down a road surrounded by thousands of spectators. The event began after a producer for The Guinness Book of World Records television show called the head of the U.S. Skateboard Association and asked for a competition fit for television. As one can imagine, a large number of unqualified contestants pushing the boundaries of design and speed in proximity to a large crowd led to plenty of record runs, a wild party, and a whole lot of accidents.

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The Evolution of Climber Tommy Caldwell

“As a professional climber I like to say that my gift in life is the ability to relentlessly beat my head against a wall. I live by the ethos that if you hit your head hard or long enough, it really feels good when you stop.” —Tommy Caldwell

This past October, 34-year-old climber Tommy Caldwell began hitting his head against El Capitan again. He set out with Jonathan Siegrist to work on a roughly 30-pitch route called The Dawn Wall that he started in 2007. It has seven sections of 5.14 and seven sections of 5.13, and would be one of the world’s hardest big wall routes if completed. In November, Kevin Jorgeson joined the pair. Jorgeson has been working on the route with Caldwell since 2009. On November 15, 2012, Caldwell stopped in the middle of the project, ending at the 13th pitch with characteristic optimism. “Last day on the wall for the season,” he said on Facebook. “Sad to be done, but good progress was made.”

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An Entangled Dolphin Approaches a Diver And Gets Help

On the night of January 11, 2013, during a dive off the Kona coast to view manta rays feeding on plankton, something strange happened. After the divers went down and lit up the water, a bottlenose dolphin slowly swam around them before aproaching diver Keller Laros and turning over. In the underwater lights meant to illuminate the manta rays, Laros saw that the dolphin's pectoral fin was entangled in fishing line. He set about cutting the line with his dive knife.

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Discovering Mavericks

This past Sunday, 43-year-old big-wave surfer Peter Mel nabbed his first victory in the Mavericks Invitational. Mel, a Santa Cruz native, has surfed the competition since the inaugural contest in 1999. The fabled break that creates monster waves off the California coast near Half Moon Bay had quiet beginnings after Jeff Clark first started riding its giant faces in the winter of 1975, but it has recently garnered a lot of attention. This past fall Twentieth Century Fox released Chasing Mavericks, a biopic about the late surfer Jay Moriarity, with Gerard Butler starring as his mentor, Frosty Hesson.

This February at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, director Josh Pomer will premiere Discovering Mavericks, an 80-minute documentary on the evolution of the break. The film features interviews with Clark, Mel, and Shane Dorian, among others. "The true story of Mavericks is way heavier than any Hollywood movie could imagine," according to the trailer.

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