Hydrophone Stations

Cetaceans consist of all whales, dolphins and porpoises and are divided into toothed whales (odontocetes) and baleen whales (mysticetes). In the research area of Cetacealab we are fortunate to be in the company of both. The orca is a member of the toothed whale suborder and is the largest member of the dolphin family. The humpback whale is a baleen whale. It is the acoustic nature of both that is the true essence of our research.

For this reason in conjunction with the research facility we have set up a network of hydrophone stations in strategic locations ranging from 3 to 10 km from Cetacealab. Each hydrophone has been placed 60-80 feet underwater, connected via cable to a land- based transmitter. The radio transmitter will broadcast all whale vocalizations back to Cetacealab. All stations are powered with solar panels and 12 volt batteries. We monitor these underwater sounds continuously in the lab, day and night, all year round. When calls are heard we then begin to record directly onto our computer. From these recordings we can monitor the movement patterns of different Orca populations and Humpback Whales. This method of research is ideal, as we are no longer dependent on weather conditions or daylight. More important, we are able to collect all acoustic information without having an impact on the whales. At present this hydrophone network enables us to listen to an underwater area of 25sq.km. We would like to increase this coverage further to determine how important this particular core habitat is to their continued existence.

Of great significance to us, in the fall of 2004 we recorded our first humpback whale song. This song went on for over 30 minutes. For the next 2 months we recorded over 30 hours of humpback whales "singing". For years is has been assumed that humpback whales only sing once they have migrated south to warmer waters. With our hydrophone network we now know they begin this "singing" behavior in the early months of fall in northern waters. We will begin to compare these songs with the "song" they will sing later in the season in either Hawaii or Mexico. We hope to determine the purpose of this "song display" in northern waters. Please refer to our Humpback page for more information.