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‘Sonic attacks’ in US Embassy in Havana may have just been crickets

Workers at the U.S. Embassy in Havana leave the building on Sept. 29, 2017, after the State Department announced that it was withdrawing all but essential personnel from the embassy because Cuba could no longer guarantee diplomats' safety. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)

The piercing noise that rocked the U.S. Embassy in Havana with staff cuts and a wave of illnesses in 2017 may just have been crickets, scientists say.

Rumors of “sonic attacks” emerged after more than two dozen diplomats reported suffering from brain damage, hearing loss and other injuries. The officials said they fell ill after hearing a persistent shrill sound in their Havana homes and the hotels they frequented.

At one point, Russia was even believed to be involved in the acoustic assault.

Yet Scientists are now squashing the speculation, arguing that the source of the noise is actually the song of the Indies short-tailed cricket, according to a study published last week.

The new findings comes after experts in the U.K. and U.S. analyzed an audio recording of the noise.

“The recording is definitively a cricket that belongs to the same group,” Fernando Montealegre-Zapata, a professor of sensory biology at the University of Lincoln, told The Guardian. “The call of this Caribbean species is about 7 kHz, and is delivered at an unusually high rate, which gives humans the sensation of a continuous sharp trill.”

The duration and pulse repetition rate of the noise matches the cricket’s hums, according to the study.

“This provides strong evidence that an echoing cricket call, rather than a sonic attack or other technological device, is responsible for the sound in the released recording,” the study reported.

Montealegre-Zapata told The Guardian he is “not surprised that this call could disturb people who are not familiar with insect sounds.”

The State Department pulled 60% of its diplomatic staff in Cuba back in September 2017 after the illnesses were reported. Investigators had believed electromagnetic weapons, including microwaves, were likely behind the noises.

Cuba denied having anything to do with the sound, but said they were investigating the “incidents.”


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