In search of a sperm whale- day four

October 4th, 2017




We’re caught in snow as we drive over the hill to Húsavik. Húsavik houses the first Icelandic whale museum and is the centre for whale watching in the north. There’s an interesting set up there that promises silent tours on electric boats, but with this weather, no-one’s going anywhere.



This is probably a good thing. The Húsavik museum has us gripped for hours. We discover that it was established and is run by a couple who’re not only passionate about whales and sharing knowledge about them, but have an eye for design. The museum is immediately welcoming but up to date, fascinating to kids, scientists, artists.. everyone. It was inspired by the body of a blue whale found beached, now scrubbed, fragrantly wafting whalish from its hairy baleen plates laid out and reconstructed in the museum. It’s size and sense of mass is stunning.



Sperm whales of course are not the filter feeding kind. They have teeth. Also called the cachalot, the reading room presented an array of facts and poems, mythical, zoological, aboriginal, with many based on human adventures in pursuit of this terrifying creature. Easy to believe that the whaling industry of the nineteenth century as described in Moby Dick was the period of mass slaughter and drop in species numbers but did you know that in the 20th century, when commercial whaling was employing steam-powered ships and exploding harpoons as opposed to a dozen men in an open rowing boat with harpoons that they threw, at least 770,000 were caught between 1946 and 1980. Whereas a maximum of around 236,000 were caught throughout the entire nineteenth century.



In search of a sperm whale- day three

October 3rd, 2017



We are in Akureryi and Markus our host takes us fishing for supper.  The sea is full of cod he says. Tie on a small bit of mackerel and within 10 minutes you’ll have one. We go to the far side of the fjord and a disused fish processing plant now inhabited by small dive and whale watching groups all for tourists but now closed as summer is over. It is cold and the cloud has descended.



The sea is right here and people live with it. There is warm wool that is knitted to wear. We have to walk 3 minutes to the modern library with views over the landscape to get online. It creates so much freedom at home. The kids run about in and out of each others houses, responsible for their own action with doors unlocked and them bright eyed and friendly and laughing and knowledgeable about many things. It’s all quite surreal still and we’re excited to get out on the sea tomorrow.
NOTE. No-one is expecting to see any whales..

In search of a sperm whale – day two

October 2nd, 2017



We are heading north to Akureyri, the 2nd largest city in Iceland with a population of 18,000 and a distance of 380km. The light and landscape are vast and new. Memories of the Scottish Highlands, SW Texas, West Australian bush roads and the A1 north through California flip flap in as we drive. Our heads are full of new found whale knowledge absorbed with a curiously different relevance here.

Sunday 1st October – in search of a sperm whale- day one

October 1st, 2017



In June I finally read Philip Hoare’s Leviathan. It’s been on my shelf since I was given a copy back in 2012 when Laura Harrington and I were hot on the mysterious  trail of the wild salmon. Within fifty pages I’d realised I have to go find a sperm whale. The central character of Moby Dick, slaughtered in their thousands for their oil, the oil that fills their massive heads which also houses their massive brain, and yes they’re also the largest carnivore ever to have existed on earth and also spend much of their lives diving to 300 or 600 or even 2000m for food.  I was hooked. This creature needs to be met.  It’s the next portal to my further understanding of our 71% water covered planet. This massive thing – monster? – evolutionarily young next to sharks,  is a mammal, is warm blooded. They went back to the sea from land. They live in groups of females and young, the males alone, each group with its own sophisticated culture (well we don’t really know do we), and audio language that spreads fast for thousands of miles and accurately locates through waters deep.  And they are still here.  Maybe as many as two million. So it’s simple. First stop, go find them.

Within a couple of days I’d discovered that Iceland has a brand new whale museum, whales are still legally hunted, whale meat is eaten by tourists and whales abound in the seas surrounding, even in October. Margareth Kammerer is inspired to join me so now here we are. In Reykyavik, and we walk into the whale museum.


We are immersed in an underwater world.  The darkened air is full of underwater sounds and huge silicone life size models of most species of whale hang from the ceiling. We are encouraged to walk under and around and have a squeeze. To hold bones and a sperm whale tooth. No they’re definitely not monsters. They don’t tear their prey limb from limb. More likely suck them in and swallow whole. These teeth are only along the bottom jaw and slot into holes in the top jaw to clamp shut once something’s swooped inside. No wonder Jonas couldn’t get out.



NOTE : message the Natural History Museum, London ref. their current whale exhibit. Come get immersed in this.

Saturday 30th September

September 30th, 2017

News through from Joe that On the Habit of Being Oneself , performed at Sadlers on Thursday and Friday were both sell out hits. The wedge worked, bass finally mastered through headphones and all.  That’s very good news. I’m looking forward to when we can all be in the space with time together .

(photo Joe Moran)

day five – Vibrator Bike presentation

September 29th, 2017



It pours with rain so no chance to show off our creation outside. Instead, after a brief lecture on the practice and history of bicrophonics, it’s a squeeze in the Charterhouse front corridor, which still seems to keep everyone happy and keen to be the next one to have a ride.


We’ve made a good step. Although the bike is not yet cyclable as there was no time to fix a chain and pedals and brakes and gears, and we do need a much more rigid plywood for the chamber and time to play with more careful positioning and powering of the transducers and sub, the overall result is fabulous. We have designed and built a Vibrator Bike in four days, whose experience, even at this prototype stage, is one of absolute pleasure which also opens new doors to wide ranging perception through instrument design, moving through space horizontal.

Many thanks to Imagineer Productions for their vision and energy, to Bill Gee for detailed care, to Gaynor for warm support , to Lisa and the bicrophonic crew and to Nick Martin for generous skill and as much passion as me to see the job through. Now let’s work to make the real thing.


day four- Vibrator Bike make week

September 28th, 2017



We’re ambitious and optimistic. We’re throwing loads of sound and vibration at vib bike as well as achieving unanticipated feats of engineering late into every night. An initial aim was always to see how vibratory we could make our vib bike with the essential addendum of meaningful.  i.e. that the vibration is driven and received directly from the music, not as some annoying, malfunctioning sex aid.  Of course to design and build such a device that can also be smoothly and safely ridden whilst reclining bodies are thrilled to their core as they’re propelled through space is no mean feat, and we only have till 8am tomorrow to do it.

Having said that, our most sensible aim was to also have fun as well as thoroughly explore the varieties of ideas we are all having as we proceed. But somehow, by 2am we have the chamber built. As large to hold as many average bodies balanced against comfortable cyclist effort. Angled to a visually pleasing design that also provides optimum reclining comfort. With possibilities to add levered entry and exit flaps for ease of access and thicker marine plywood for a more rigid structure to enable greater sensitivity for vibration at a later date.

We also mount chamber on the frame, securely fix it and lo –  she steers as a filly. A coffin ? a boat? No! A vibrator bike. Next stop, the Charterhouse /St Anne’s Priory, London Road, Coventry tomorrow 8am.

day three – Vibrator Bike make week

September 27th, 2017



Lisa has joined us from London and we’re making good progress. We’ve received some less powerful transducers that will play higher frequencies. These will be attached to either side of the box and be powered from a 4 channel Lepy amp which will also drive the butt shaker under the seat. So including the Kenwood amp and the MOTU there are 3 items to be powered from the 12V battery. This means making a junction box. We also need exact measurements on the cables to run from the speakers to the amps which with the other tech will be housed under the box on a one-day-waterproof-easily-accessible-for fixing-and-charging shelf. We’re also using 2 pairs of minirigs installed on adjustable pivots at each corner of the box, with one minirig sub behind the angled end a tranported body can be lying against.

As ever with these new projects, there are no blue prints, so we get in and out of pieces of wood on the ground and measure and re-measure and lean against what could be a good angle and will these extra cms make the box too heavy or…? By the end of the day, there’s a trip to the local electronics store who have all the cables/cable to make all the cables and adaptations we need. Note. The box is no longer called the box. It’s the vibrating chamber.



image Andrew Moore

day two – Vibrator Bike make week

September 26th, 2017


We’ve been given 3 second hand bicycles which we’ve stripped to their frames. Having been a bike stripper newbie, it’s good work. Then we cut the front half of the frames off, using the green yellow one as the cycling end – its in best shape and strongest frame – swinging the other two on their backs and welding them together so that they sit as a pair to go under the box. What’s in the middle of them is the front steering stem of green yellow bike to which a system of steel lengths will be cut and welded to make the system you now see above.

The vibrating bike seat also needs to be made. How to fit and fix a 50W bass transducer to a bike seat so that it plays to the rider and remains super comfortable is not as easy as it might look.


Monday 25th September – Vibrator Bike make week

September 25th, 2017



I’m in Nick’s workshop in Warwick. It’s massive. He makes bots and interactive flying things for Jurassic park and Star Wars and Jaguar when he’s not making sonic bike extras, so it’s a precious week. First thing he shows me a development idea on design MKI inspired by the below. By lifting the box and moving it forward, we can remove the small front wheel which will also solve steering issues we’d already discussed on the phone last week. Also it means there’s more room to increase the length of the box itself.

We also make and test a plan for powering the audio system. As we’re restricted on time and budget we need to work with what we have to make our prototype by Friday. Good news is that our Day one tests are successful. The MOTU is powered by an invertor running from a 12V battery which plays oscillating basses to a Kenwood 350W bicrophonic car stereo amp which perform the sound through 2 x 25W bass transducers which are screwed to a wooden workbench which vibrate Nick nicely.  Day one kicks off to a good start.