New Lab-core hydrophones on the Bush Point B&B pilings!

As of Monday (12/16/2019), new and vastly improved hydrophones are now operating at Bush Point B&B on Whidbey Island. Because the old hydrophone had become increasingly insensitive during 2019, this upgrade restores our ability to listen for whales in this key location. Half way into Admiralty Inlet, Bush Point is on the primary route to/from Puget Sound and the Whidbey Basin (Edmonds to Deception Pass) where orcas, humpbacks, and gray whales often travel.

Watch Howard Garrett of Orca Network explain the new hydrophones for Michael Crowe of King5 (aired on Dec 11, 2019, at 9, 10, and 11pm on KONG and KING5).

You can listen live 24/7 at: http://live.orcasound.net/bush-point

You can help with future improvements to the Bush Point hydrophones! Donate to Orca Network’s Ocean Listening Project, or sign up to be an Orca Network volunteer.

The new hydrophones were built and installed by Lon Brocklehurst of Lab-core System, based in Olympia, with logistical help from Whidbey Island’s local marine cinematographer, Florian Graner of Sealife Productions. The upgrade was a collaborative effort of four members of the Orcasound hydrophone network: the node host organization Orca Network managed the effort; Lab-Core System built the new array and led the installation; Beam Reach provided technical support with live-streaming; and the Center for Whale Research helped coordinate the original hydrophone array design and deployment plan.

The high-speed Internet connection is supported through a generous grant from Whidbey Telecom. The hydrophones are deployed from the Bush Point Wharf B&B thanks to the generosity of owner Stan Yu. Lynn Carey helped document the deployment by taking some great photos.

The new array has three hydrophones and is deployed near the outer edge of the Bush Point wharf. On Lon’s hydrophone system, the left channel is located furthest south (aka channel #1 or T-1), the right channel is located furthest north (aka channel #3 or T+1), and the center channel (not streamed) is centrally located on the SW corner of the wharf (aka channel #2 or T=0). The physical separation between the hydrophones in the left/south and right/north channels is about 6 meters. Here’s an annotated satellite image of the wharf to clarify the array geometry:

Howie’s annotated birds-eye view of the new Lab-core hydrophone array.

Bush Point is also a great location to monitor underwater noise levels and conduct soundscape studies. You can often hear vessel noise as commercial ships transit Admiralty Inlet (monitor ships via a real-time AIS maps) and recreational boats using the public ramp that is adjacent to the Bush Point B&B (watch via the Bush Point launch cam maintained by the Port of South Whidbey).

The original deployment in 2018 positioned a three-hydrophone array optimally for such studies — about 200 meters offshore at a depth of ~17 meters. That system was installed through heroic efforts of Orca Network volunteers and many hours of diving and trenching cable by Florian. Unfortunately, it failed soon after being installed and we’re not sure why. The replacement hydrophone that Lon quickly deployed was simply hanging between the outer B&B pilings where the water depth at low tide is often very shallow (0-2 meters below MLLW). It lasted for many months, but lost sensitivity over time — eventually only detecting intense noise from passing ships or breaking waves at low tide.

New hydrophones mounted in protective PVC pipes to be attached at the base of the Bush Point B&B wharf’s outermost pilings.

We look forward to further improving the hydrophones in 2020 at Bush Point and maybe even adding a web camera atop the B&B. The main improvement to the hydrophone array will be to move it into deeper water so that there is not so much flow, wave, and surface noise.

You can help with such improvements! Donate to Orca Network’s Ocean Listening Project, or sign up to be an Orca Network volunteer.


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