Even before the foundation was formed in 2003 there was work on developing a CetaBuoy for listening to the whales locally.
The success of this early work and the enthusiastic response it received inspired the formal creation of the foundation.
Since that time Jupiter has singlemindedly pursued its initial goal: enabling the entire world to hear the Humpbacks live.
|Humpback Whale Project
The Humpback Whale Project is the first of Jupiter Research Foundation’s major endeavors. The objective was to make live Humpback whale sounds available on our website both for the research community and for public enjoyment. We have successfully met this objective, making these live sounds available on the internet since the summer of 2004. We have also focused our energy on improving our software and hardware to optimize live sound quality and maximize live sound availability.
The first phase of this project was to develop and construct a series of solar powered radio buoys that would detect and wirelessly transmit the whale sounds to shore. The first of our buoys was activated over 4 years ago, in Hawaii. Since then the buoys have evolved significantly and are more complex, more effective, and more reliable. (We are currently deploying our 5th generation buoy.)
Our first base of operations was in Puako, Hawaii, off the northwest coast of Hawaii Island. Later we added operations in Angoon, off the coast of Admiralty Island in Southeastern Alaska. Each location has its own challenges.
In Hawaii the weather conditions are usually quite mild for deploying and testing the equipment. However, it is not unusual to have high winds and tropical storms for several days in a row, making field activity impractical or impossible. The whales are extremely active vocally during their winters in Hawaii when they are mating and birthing calves, so when the system is up and functioning the songs can be heard for hours at a time over a period of several months.
In Alaska, in addition to the whales being less vocal, the environmental challenges are unique and require patience and perseverance. These challenges include tidal surges, extreme water temperature, remoteness of location, and inconsistent solar power. One buoy was deployed in Alaska during the summer of 2004, and up to four were deployed there during the summer of 2005, with intermittent success at transmission.
TARGET SCHEDULE FOR HAWAII BUOY DEPLOYMENT/LIVE WEB BROADCASTING
December – April
Humpback migratory routes
Our latest buoy design incorporates improvements in solar energy management. This allows for a smaller solar panel surface, and a simpler, more elegant design. We still employ the “wing” (a foil) for hydrodynamic efficiency. Please visit our Equipment page for a complete view of a buoy and its equipment components.
Following the Migration
Hundreds of the whales we listen to during winter breeding season in Hawaii migrate north to Alaska for feeding throughout the summer. In the summer of 2004 Jupiter set up operations in Angoon, Alaska for listening to them.
The sounds the humpbacks produce in Alaska are radically different in substance, duration, and frequency than those produced in Hawaii, where they are known to sing their "song." In Alaska the sounds are most likely associated with cooperative hunting and feeding behaviors. These sounds don't have the discernible patterns of the songs, and instead are considered calls.
Expanding our Listening Range
Until the summer of 2005 our widest listening range was 2 miles. We had 1 or 2 buoys in the water, a mile or two off shore, and our receiver/transmitter (a.k.a. transceiver) right on shore in our labs.
During the summer of 2006, with the generous permission of the town of Angoon, AK we built and installed a radio repeater system on top of the local water tower to allow a much larger radius of transmission, and by deploying several buoys about 10 miles from each other, we increased our listening range to about 40 miles.
We later installed a similar repeater system at the historic Kahua Ranch on Hawaii Island expanding the range of listening there to 40 - 50 miles. Among the advantages of the Hawaii system was the electrical power (in additional to solar power). So even when the sun was scarce, our system continued uninterrupted.