Little is known about localized, near-field soundscapes during offshore hydrocarbon drilling campaigns. In the Dogger Bank, North Sea, underwater noise recordings were made 41–60 m from the drill stem of the Noble Kolskaya jack-up exploration drilling rig. The aims were to document noise received levels (RLs) and frequency characteristics of rig-associated near-field noise. The rig produced sound pressure levels (SPLs) of 120 dB re 1 μPa in the frequency range of 2–1400 Hz. Over transient periods, RLs varied by 15–20 dB between softest (holding) and noisiest (drilling) operations. Tonal components at different frequencies varied with depth. Support vessel noise was significantly louder than the jack-up rig at frequencies <1 kHz, even in its noisiest “boulder-drilling” phase, though radiated noise levels were higher above 2 kHz. Rig SPLs fell rapidly above 8 kHz. Marine mammals, such as harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) forage regularly near offshore oil and gas rigs and platforms, and it is predicted that animals experience different noise regimes while traversing the water column and can potentially detect the higher-frequency components of drilling noise to a distance of 70 m from the source; however, while levels were unlikely to cause auditory injury, effects on echolocation behavior are still unknown.

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