Starting in 1980, Melville Strait was the site of an unexplained phenomenon called “the Hum,” alternatively described as a “ping” or a “beep,” which was heard throughout summer 1980 and into the early fall. It was heard by various Inuit villagers and hunters, as well as personnel at the joint Canadian/American airbase on nearby York Island.

Hunters blamed “the Hum” for a comparative scarcity of game animals that year, both marine and on land. Villagers in particular blamed it on the military base, which had already been involved in controversy through its use of a nuclear reactor power source and large-scale dumping of garbage. In response, Canadian and American military authorities performed an airborne survey of the area and deployed a signals intelligence unit to gather data.

Officially, the investigation team was a civilian contractor specializing in audiology and physiology. Reportedly, however, it was actually a joint NSA/CSE codebreaking and information warfare unit. In either case, the investigators detected a frequency between 32 Hz and 80 Hz, modulated from 0.5 to 2 Hz, but were unable to discern a point of origin from any natural or manmade source.

Ultimately, the investigation found that the sound was most likely the product of Soviet Grom radio direction finder tests from submarines, a part of the Molniya system intended to serve as the basis for short-range guided missile strikes. When access to Soviet archives was briefly available in the 1990s, though, it was revealed that not only had the Grom been abandoned in 1978, but that it and the Molniya system had been far too large to fit on any submarines available in 1980.

Furthermore, there were no Soviet records of submarines in the area at the time, with an incursion in January 1978 and another in July 1981 being the closest. When pressed on the issue, retired admiral Mikhail Lebedev called the claim “nonsense,” saying that even if the system had been available for use, it would never have been tested in the area of an active airbase. “The would be a very high risk of war for very little gain,” he claimed.

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