July 12, 2004
Our second day in the Yakutat "Hole" yielded a few sperm whales and a fin whale or two, but not a single humpback in sight. I took advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit more about acoustics. Shannon and Julie played some previous recordings for me so I could learn to distinguish sounds such as the sperm whale's constant "click-click-click" or the orca whistle "Wee-ow-Wee!"
The acoustics department were also anxious to try out their newly constructed sono-buoys and used this opportunity to give them a try. To date, the acoustics department has been deploying an acoustical array off the fantail of the boat. However, due to the background noise of the boat in the lower registers, the acoustical array can only detect sounds higher in frequency. The advantage of a sono-buoy is that they can be deployed by the smaller boat at an appropriate distance from the McArthur II, to reduce the impact of this background noise. The sono-buoys are constructed such that when the columnar portion hits the water, sea water triggers the seawater batteries, then a CO2 cartridge triggers an orange inflatable top. Again, the acoustics team is hoping to use the buoys to record sounds in the lower register, such as a blue whale or other large rorqual. Stay tuned!
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