Sonic Kayaks


Together with sound artist Kaffe Matthews, marine researcher Dr. Kirsty Kemp, and underwater noise researcher Dr. Jo Garrett, we have been developing Sonic Kayaks.

This work was recently published in PLoS Biology as 'Sonic Kayaks: Environmental monitoring and experimental music by citizens' including full details on building your own Sonic Kayak and incorporating all the open source software involved.

The Sonic Kayak project emerged from the Bicrophonic Research Institute (BRI), established by Kaffe Matthews and David Griffiths in 2014. Through ten years of international projects the BRI has developed the Sonic Bike whose music changes depending on where and how fast the cyclist goes, played through a pair of bike-mounted speakers and onboard GPS system. Now we are evolving the Sonic Bikes to the coastal marinescape.

The Sonic Kayak is a musical instrument with which to investigate nature. Kayaks rigged with underwater environmental sensors generate live music from the marine world, providing the paddler with an extra dimension of senses with which to explore the underwater climate, while enabling citizens to gather important climate/environmental data.

The Sonic Kayaks are under continuing development. In 2018 James Duffy joined us to create an open online map of data collected by the kayaks. Now, supported by Smartline (European Regional Development Funding), we are further waterproofing the system and making it easier for people to use. In late 2018 we'll be testing the system with a kayak club for visually impaired people (Access Lizard Adventure), and working with researchers at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health to see if the system brings well-being benefits to its users due to the extension of their senses.

Sonic Kayaks explained from Bicrophonic Research Institute on Vimeo.

The Sonic Kayaks were launched at the British Science Festival (Swansea, 6-9 September 2016), and photographs of the project are here.


This project has been funded by FEAST Cornwall, the British Science Association, and Smartline.