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Audograph Recordings Collection

 Record Group
Identifier: MC-109

Scope and Content Note

The Audograph Recordings consists of audio recordings made at sea during various WHOI cruises from 1949-1950 using an Audograph office dictation unit. Among the sounds documented at sea on the discs in this collection are underwater explosions to ascertain the scattering layer or ocean floor, "fish sounds", and sounds from the vessels involved in the exercises during which the recording was made. Also included in the collection are Audograph recordings of the Subcommittee on Oceanography, blank Audograph discs, instruction pamphlets on the use of Audograph dictation machines, an article on WHOI's use of the Audograph, and the 5A Secretarial Model of the Audograph recorder. Some disc jackets have notes documenting events on the disc written by John Brackett Hersey and others. The original arrangement was likely by date, however this is not consistent throughout the collection. The cruises represented in this collection largely occurred in the North Atlantic, near the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean. The content of the Audograph disc recordings includes: sound transmission underwater; underwater reverberation studies both of the scattering layer and the ocean floor; "fish noise"; submarine noise; and oral reports. Most recorded Audograph discs in this collection are the large "60" type, which are approximately 8.5" in diameter, with a handful of small "20" size discs. Some audograph discs' sleeves do not list ship cruise number, and others don't list which disc it is within a sequence. For the former, if the disc sleeve is dated, the most likely WHOI ship cruises are listed. For the latter, if the disc sleeve lists a range of time and not a disc number, it was given a disc number in keeping with its time range and sequence of discs it was found within.


  • 1949-1952

Language of Materials

The records are in English.


Open: Materials are available for research.


Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection must be authorized by the Institution Archivist.

Historical Information

The Audograph office dictation machine is a largely forgotten sound recording device from the mid-20th century, best known to have recorded sound during the assassination of President Kennedy. The Audograph was made by Gray Manufacturing Company beginning in 1945 and lasted at least through the 1950s. Audograph machines record sound to a plastic flexible disc similar to a vinyl LP. Gray Manufacturing went bankrupt in 1976.

The recordings in this collection were made on an Audograph office dictation machine, many of which were undertaken on cruises done in collaboration with the U.S. Navy. The exercises performed by the ships were kept confidential for a time due to their connection with measuring how sound travels and disperses underwater, and the utility of this information for the U.S. Navy, including their work on SONAR. Other cruises used similar methods to study the structure of the ocean floor. During some of these exercises, underwater detonations of explosives were used as a sound source so that the scattering of the sound waves could be measured. Most of the recordings were made on the WHOI ships Atlantis and Caryn. Other ships referenced in this collection are Navy vessels, including submarines: USS O'Hare, USS Amberjack, USS Maloy, USS Somersworth (EPCER-849), USS Halfbeak, USS Sarda, USS Tusk, USS Corsair, USS Toro, and possibly the USS Cochino. John Brackett Hersey was the chief scientist on the majority of cruises during which these recordings were made. Hersey's principal scientific interests were in solid earth geophysics, marine seismology and geology, underwater acoustics, and sound scattering by marine animals.

Some recordings utilized AX58 crystal hydrophones, an audio amplifier developed at WHOI referred to as "suitcase", and multi-channel analyzers to keep track of how different audio frequencies were scattering underwater. It appears that the Audograph recordings were a secondary method of documenting underwater sound on these cruises: there is no mention of the Audograph machine or Audograph discs on the extant cruise equipment lists, nor was there any reference to the Audograph recordings in available papers which used data from the cruises documented this Audograph collection. The only mentions of the audograph in the sources available were in log books pertaining to Atlantis cruise 151 and Caryn cruise 5, specifically a frequency response test, and time logs which noted the changing of Audograph discs. The primary sources of sonic data for the aforementioned papers were seismograph recorders, as there are images from the seismograph sheets shown in a number of the papers. Some possible reasons why seismographs were used as the primary source of data for those papers are they are able to document sonic frequencies below the threshold of human hearing, and the convenience of having the sonic data displayed over time in an accessible, visible format.


2.25 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


The WHOI Audograph disc collection consists of recordings of various tests made at sea from 1949 through 1950. The collecion, which is divided into a dozen series by cruise, consists of recorded Audograph discs and their sleeves.


The collection has been divided into sixteen series:

List of Series:

  1. Atlantis 154
  2. Caryn 5
  3. Atlantis 154/Caryn 5
  4. Summer 1949
  5. Atlantis 160
  6. USS Somersworth (EPCER 849)/USS Halfbeak
  7. Atlantis 161
  8. Air towed sonar tests
  9. Caryn 15
  10. USS Tusk
  11. USS Maloy
  12. USS Maloy and USS Sarda
  13. Undated
  14. Printed Materials
  15. Blank Audograph Discs
  16. Audograph recorder

Physical Charateristics or Technical Requirements

Audograph discs are only read by Audograph office dictation machine, which is a variable speed recording technology. Audograph dictation machines are no longer used for audio recording. Digitization process TBD, whether jury-rigged turntable, a functional Audograph machine, or otherwise.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the collection is undocumented.

Acquisitions Information

The acquisition of the collection is undocumented.

Alternative Form Available

Digital copies of the audio material on the discs as well as digital scans of the sleeves of each disc are pending.

Related Material

See also: John Brackett Hersey's personal papers, ship's logbooks (USS Maloy [Sept-Dec 1950, Box 84 folder 3], Atlantis, Caryn), and cruise files for more information on the cruises covered in this collection. Film taken during USS Somersworth (EPCER 849) VDS tests and trials (with some crossover with Atlantis 161) is found in the WHOI Audio/Visual Collection, Films 751-769.

Separated Material

No material was separated from the collection during processing.

Processing Information

Processing by Wendell Edwards from June 2015 to August 2016. Where the Audograph disc sleeve did not specify which ship or cruise, logbooks and ships files were utilized to place the discs into series. Information from original materials (folders) was utilized as disc titles when the information on the disc's sleeve was limited. Where the disc number was absent from the sleeve, other information found on the sleeve was utilized to order the discs such as time frame, date, and exercises/tests. The materials were put into acid-free folders and boxes and labeled.

A Guide to the Audograph Recordings Collection
Wendell Edwards
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written inEnglish

Repository Details

Part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Data Library and Archives Repository