Quirks & Quarks

Listening for Arctic whales

Whales and other marine mammals can be traced remotely as they pass through the Bering Strait by listening for their distinctive calls.

Scientists track whales in a warming Arctic by eavesdropping on their songs

Humpback Whale
Dr. Kate Stafford, an Oceanographer at the University of Washington in Seattle, is a whale listener. Studying whales in the Arctic is difficult because whales, of course, spend their time far from land, in and under the water, and Arctic conditions don't help in the least.

Dr. Stafford switched from visual to auditory detection and equipped oceanographic buoys with underwater microphones, to listen for the distinctive calls of whales passing through the Bering Straight from the Pacific into the Arctic Sea.

In her monitoring, she's found that with Arctic warming and ice reductions, migratory Pacific whales are spending more time in the North, and might soon be in direct competition with dedicated Arctic species.

Related Links

- Abstract from Acoustical Society of America meeting
- Acoustical Society of America release