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Windsor, September 22, 2007 The skyline of Detroit photographed from Windsor's River Front. Photo by: Fernando morales/The Globe and Mail (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Windsor, September 22, 2007 The skyline of Detroit photographed from Windsor's River Front. Photo by: Fernando morales/The Globe and Mail (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Globe editorial

From Detroit, a mysterious humming sound Add to ...

The scientific consensus is growing: There is an audible and tactile hum coursing through parts of Windsor, Ont., powerful enough to rattle windows and wake people up. It appears to be coming from the heavily industrialized and menacingly named Zug Island across the Detroit River in Michigan, although the new study that has confirmed the hum’s existence was not able to nail its exact provenance. Further research will be needed for that. Given the times we live in, Windsor’s citizens should brace themselves for the rise of the hum-denying cabal, complete with scientists, lobbyists and public-relations specialists who will argue the hum is a fiction. We wish we were more than half-joking.

The report released Friday is a vindication for Windsor residents. They call it a hum, but that’s too gentle a word. Recordings of the phenomenon posted online reveal the “Windsor hum” is more akin to the hell of living above a dubstep club. It’s a bassline thrum so low in frequency as to be undetectable in recordings without the use of quality headphones or expensive speakers. Drake could mix it into his next hit song.

The hum is so inescapable that thousands of people have complained about it. Their discomfort, as well as their worries about the hum’s potential harm to their health, prompted provincial and federal government departments to investigate. The deployment of two portable infrasound arrays over the course of a month confirmed the existence of a low-frequency signal. Scientists were unable to detect common signals on the two arrays, which would have allowed them to precisely pinpoint the source. But they believe it is coming from blast-furnace operations on Zug Island.

It must be good for Windsor residents to be reassured by science that they aren’t hearing (and feeling) things that don’t exist, and also that this is not seismic activity or the rumblings of a giant lizard that gorged itself on radiation and is coming out of dormancy (it’s possible). But the next steps will be complicated. This is now a cross-border issue. Diplomacy is involved. So is industry. The U.S. Steel blast-furnace operations suspected of being the source of the hum can’t be expected to cheerfully shoulder Canada’s blame. They might even hire their own scientists, who could sow doubt about the findings of last week’s study. PR spokespeople might say the hum could be anything: trucks on the highway; losers grumbling as they leave the Windsor casino; the return of the electric chair in Tennessee (it’s possible). Republican politicians could raise the possibility of a conspiracy and slyly invoke Canada’s “European” tendencies (French, health care, gun control).

This could be a long haul for Windsor residents. Our sympathies are with them. We’ve all seen how these things can go.

 

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