Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Listen to Orca Whales Live!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we love our Orca whales so much that scientists have installed microphones to listen to their sounds, just like moms and dads listen to baby monitors. The microphones are called hydrophones because they work under water. There's a whole network of these hydrophones in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound, and anyone can listen to them online. In fact, you're encouraged to listen and help monitor the whales' calls to help scientists identify which pod is making them.

Orcas Live! on the Hydrophone Network
Scientists, along with the rest of us living in this region, are worried because the Orcas, also known as Killer Whales, are stressed, and some of them here are dying prematurely for no apparent reason, so their population is dwindling. One theory is that ship and boat motor noises, among other things, are stressing them out, so scientists are listening to help figure out what's going on.

You can see the locations of the hydrophones and listen to them on the Orcasound Hydrophone Network site. It has a map with markers showing the locations of the hydrophones. You can click on a marker to hear any sounds being made at that location. (You may need to install some software first. The page has information about what you need.) You can also listen to recordings to learn about the unique sounds the different whale pods make, and explore lots of other interesting stuff. A different site has links to web cams recording live video of different locations. Check it out!

Also be sure to visit the Killer Whale Tales web site, which has lots of information about the endangered Orcas in our area. For children, download this free booklet from Killer Whale Tales that explains all about Orcas and has fun activities: Orca Booklet for Children. (They say the booklet's for children, but I'm sure enjoying it!) For more information about the research being done on the effects of man-made noise on the Orcas, see this article.

If you're interested in ways that you can help Orcas, see Rain Gardening for Orcas.

And read this story about the birthday party for a 100-year-old Orca.

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Listen to Orca whales live on the Hydrophone Network.

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