We track whales using a piece of equipment called an acoustic array. This is a line of underwater microphones called hydrophones that we drag behind the RV Odyssey to give us a bearing and approximate range to animals night and day, good and bad weather. The best-case scenario for us is to be with a group of whales when the sun rises so that we can work with them all day.
At least 50% of the time when we track animals acoustically they go quite between 4 and 6 am. It is incredibly frustrating to track them all night and then lose them right before the dawn. We are talking groups of four to twelve animals all going quite. This behavior is also very interesting from a scientific perspective–what are they doing in these quiet times? Sleeping, socializing, who knows?
Recently we established a relationship with FLIR, a company that makes top-of-the line night-vision equipment for the military, rescue services, tradesmen and civilians. Over the last couple of days we have been installing a FLIR system aboard the Odyssey with the help of FLIR service representative William Hawkins. Bill helped with the install and has been training the crew in the use of this very sophisticated and, dare I say, almost magical system.
Not only is this system going to give us an eye into a whale’s world at night, it is going to be a huge asset for night-time navigation and safety. Note the image of a swimmer in the water and a ships channel that was totally black to our sight but as clear as day on FLIR. We are looking forward to reporting more on our use and discoveries with FLIR. Thank you again to FLIR and Mr. Hawkins.
-Iain Kerr on board the Odyssey