Using An Undersea Glider To Record A Terabyte Of Whale Noises

At the tail-end of last year, researchers managed to successfully collect close to a terabyte of recordings of beaked whales off the coast of Hawaii, using the first acoustic-equipped undersea glider to travel to the depths some 1000m down.

It was notable because normal acoustic recording instruments can't detect the beaked whales' noises, which mostly sound like clicks and squeals according to the team working on the project, at the Oregon State University. Funded by the US Office of Naval Research, which pumped $US1.5 million into the project, over 60 dives were made by the sea glider between late October and mid-November 2009.

Why is the US Office of Naval Research so keen to record the whales? It's because they hope to learn more about them, tracking where they tend to live so they can be protected. There's a real problem with the beaked whales responding badly to the sonars of nearby ships in the area, confusing them and resulting in the whales surfacing too quickly and dying of similar symptoms to "the bends". Tracking the whales with the sea glider will help the navy detect their whereabouts, so military exercises don't end in fatalities of the whale-kind. [ via Wired]