Monthly Archives: July 2008

J8 Subpod – Day 2

43 28.2N 123 04.9W Travelling down-island, close to shore. 28 vessels within a 2-mile radius, the top count this season. I promise there are vocals in there…. somewhere… Actually, toward the end of this sample I have J8 pinging the hydrophone from negligible range (Kerri, it was an accident, I promise).

Listen here (2.5MB)

J8 Subpod

48 29.11N 122 43.64W Travelling up-island slowly, occassional milling. Eerie vocals.

Listen here (1.1MB)

J & L

48 25.22N 122 43.64W Travel, medium distribution. W-bound. Interesting vocal change toward the end, as the fleet goes from mostly set to mostly paralleling. Coincidence?

Listen here (5.4MB)

Neah Bay hydrophone streaming live

With special thanks for support from the Makah Tribe and coordination by Jon Scordino, there is now underwater sound streaming live from Neah Bay via the Salish Sea hydrophone network. The network is an experiment in human and automated monitoring of underwater sounds within the critical habitat of the endangered southern resident killer whales. The project is coordinated by The Whale Museum and is currently funded by NOAA and WDFW.

Please help us listen to the new and existing hydrophones to determine the presence or absence of killer whales, particularly at night (in the Pacific Northwest) and during foul weather when researchers and whale watchers are unable to locate the whales. You may also hear other interesting underwater sounds. Despite a low-frequency hum that is yet to be resolved, we have already heard many passing vessels and a vocalizing male harbor seal. Recordings of each are archived on the web site under each node.


You can collaborate within the Orcasphere in the following ways:

  • Read, contribute to, and comment on the Orcasphere blog
  • Join an email list related to killer whales:
    • subscribe to OrcaEd — A list for educators who teach about orcas (educational resources, events, etc.)
    • subscribe to OrcaSci — A list for scientists who study orcas (research plans, coordination, publications, etc.)
  • Contribute to the Orcapedia (wiki)

As of 12/2011, there are a variety of email-based tools available for sharing information about SRKWs and their recovery. Those available through the domain are are listed here —

The email distribution list is used (primarily by hydrophone network members) to share real-time locations of killer whales, mainly when SRKWs are at or approaching a hydrophone node, but also generally. One can request subscription to this list here — It is a private, moderated list which — as stated on the sign-up page — “is currently restricted to researchers and stewards who are dedicated to reducing their impacts on the southern resident killer whales and abiding by the Be Whale Wise law if observing orcas on the water. Evidence of increasing impacts or infractions will result in removal from this list.” As of 12/2011, no commercial whale watch operators are members of this list.

The email address is a catch-all, one-way address for the general public to report “hearings” on the streams; it gets a lot of junk mail and unreliable reports and thus is forwarded to folks who want to follow up and interact with those amateur reporters: Chrissy Mclean (Port Townsend Marine Science Center), Jason Wood (Whale Museum Board Member), Scott Veirs (Beam Reach President), Susan Berta (Orca Network), and Val Veirs (Orcasound hydrophone engineer), and Beam Reach student volunteers.

The private email distribution list used to coordinate maintenance of the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network is As of 12/2011, its members are: David Howitt, Howard Garrett, Jason Wood, Jenny Atkinson, Jeanne Hyde, Robin Kodner, Lon Brockelhurst, Scott Veirs, Stefan Brager, Susan Berta, and Val Veirs. You can sign up here —


Humans value interacting with killer whales. There are many ways to observe them, learn and wonder about them, and ultimately help protect them:

You can even help study the southern resident killer whales by:

J’s near Davidson

48 25.46N 122 45.48W 1519 Moving sporadically toward Davidson Rock. Lots of breeching, and a few spy-hops. The pod was traveling in three groups, all within a mile of each other, alternating between 8-9kt travel and what looked like foraging behavior. 

Considerable noise from the sea state, and occasionally I forget to turn off the depth-sounder…

Listen here (1.2MB) and here (0.6MB)

Super-pod at Battleship

Lat: 48 37.69N; Lon: 123 13.26W 1248 Making about 7kts toward Kellet Bluff.

One of the frustrations of a sensitive hydrophone is that any abrasion of the cable against the hull of the boat results in quite a bit of noise. You can hear some of that in the last third of the recording, below. I’m crafting a fleece-padded outrigger in an attempt to mitigate this.

Listen here (1.1MB)

J & L in Rosario Strait

J’s and L’s between Williamson Rock and Lawson Reef, southbound around 1600, July 7. This is the most active part of the recording, with some strong echolocation clicks and whistles. The predominant noise (low-rev “clanking”) is from a tanker in the shipping lanes, about 3 miles away. 

Listen here (1.4MB)

SRKW call frequency response to boat noise?

The field season is rolling, with all three southern resident killer whale pods “in the area,” and whale watchers packing all of our favorite boats. I’ve been hanging out with these animals for five years now, and for the first time I’m trying my hand at research. Here is the full text of my research proposal. Keep in mind, this is undergraduate work…don’t expect doctoral quality stuff here. ;-)


The quick and dirty: If the SRKWs calls are being masked by boat (or other) noise, they have three avenues to increase their ability to be heard. They could increase the duration of their calls (Foote, 2004), increase the amplitude of their calls(Scheifele, et al, 2005), or “shift” (using the term loosely) the frequency of their calls. Thomas (1999) showed that antarctic killer whales avoid competition for acoustic space by shifting the bulk of their calls to frequency bands outside of those used by leopard seals. Could SRKWs be responding the same way to boat noise? Hopefully we’ll find out.

Joe Olson at Cetacean Research Technology hooked me up with a calibrated C54XRS flat-response hydrophone that runs through a 20Hz high-pass filter to a FR-2LE field recorder (96kHz sample rate). I’ll be analyzing the calls using RAVEN, once my advisor hooks me up with a PC laptop. 

All of my recordings will be made from aboard M/V Glacier Spirit and M/V Olympus of Puget Sound Express