A BC whale-watching operator uses hydrophones to listen to whale songs

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When it comes to whale watching tours in British Columbia, operators are now finding that whale sounds are becoming just as important as whale sightings.

Wild Waterway Adventures, based on Quadra Island, British Columbia, uses hydrophones to capture underwater audio recordings on some of its tours.

“When we get the acoustics is when they’re in the big groups. It’s multiple families together that haven’t seen each other in a while and it’s a huge party,” said Jennifer Smalley of Wild Waterway Adventures. .

“There are so many different sounds and tones and we don’t know what they’re saying, but it’s very clear that they’re having a great time,” she added.

Amateur photographer Blair Denman was on one of the whale watching tours when some whale sounds were picked up by the hydrophones.

“We could hear them without the microphone while we were standing in the boat and then when we dropped the microphone in the water it was like they were having a party. It was amazing,” he said. -he declares.

“THEY ALL HAVE DIFFERENT LANGUAGES”

Whale researcher Jackie Hildering says hydrophones are a great educational tool.

“The power to literally open up the oceans so people can hear the whales in their environment has such power,” she told CTV News.

“As educators, we’re trying to get more boaters to understand that this is why there are distance and speed limits around whales,” she said.

Hildering helped install a hydrophone at Robson Bight on northern Vancouver Island several years ago.

She says the audio recordings can help determine where the whales come from and which specific families they belong to.

“Not only does this tell what species of whales are in an area, but in the case of the population of orcas on our coast – four different populations – this is what allowed researchers to know that they have all different languages,” she said.

Hildering notes that the technology is passive and does not disturb the whales, which is good news for tour operators who have hydrophones on their vessels.

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