Shortcuts for listening to the Canadian Pacific

There are a wonderful and growing array of hydrophones monitoring the ocean soundscapes of British Columbia, Canada. This post provides an overview of them (from south to north) with short-cuts in a brief listening guide. In future posts, we’ll describe how to access and listen to recordings from each location. In a few cases, listening live is also possible.

ONC | SIMRES | Orca Lab | Pacific Wild | Cetacea Lab
Explore this Google map of Northeast Pacific hydrophones. The ONC and SIMRES hydrophones are in the southernmost cluster, Orca Lab is the cluster at the north end of Vancouver Island, and the final two clusters further north along the BC coast are Pacific Wild and Cetacea Lab, respectively.

Ocean Networks Canada

TLDR; As of early 2023, ONC appears to offer no near real time hydrophones that are operational in the southern Strait of Georgia.

Update 2/11/2023: J pod went north through Active Pass this morning (at around 7:45 a.m. — we know thanks to the Salish Sea Orca Squad and Orca Behavior Institute), so I clicked through every Strait of Georgia hydrophone listed in ONC’s Hydrophone Viewer within the Oceans 3.0 Data Portal. Short story: it still really sucks! Longer story: it takes 3-10 seconds for the metadata to load for each of the ~50 past deployments. Then when did find a hydrophone that claims to still be deployed, the data archive suggests there are no data for the current/latest 24 hour period, so you get to do a directed random backward search to figure out when the latest data were archived. Here’s as close as I came to success:

Deployment dates look good for getting some data today (11-Feb-2023)… but further investigation shows the latest data available is way back on 09-August-2022.

Update 1/4/2023: J pod (at least) went north past SIMRES around noon today, so I just checked to see if I could hear them this evening. The most recent 2022 data available from the Strait of Georgia hydrophone that worked last April (see below) is from 09 August, 2022.

Update 4/4/2022: ONC data access in near-real-time is available from within the Strait of Georgia via and via the two SIMRES hydrophones (Monarch Head and East Point on Saturna Island, see SIMRES section below). Latency for the Strait of Georgia nodes seems to be about 1 hour and can be explored via the Oceans 3.0 hierarchical hydrophone data menu via “Strait of Georgia” –> “Strait of Georgia Central” –> “Strait of Georgia Venus Instrument Platform” –> “Ocean Sonics icListen AF Hydrophone 2548”) as in this screen shot:

Old info/background:

Thanks to a helpful email from Tom Dakin, as of August 2017 these links provide access to a suite of hydrophones maintained around the southern coast of Vancouver Island on the Venus and Neptune lines by Ocean Networks Canada (ONC). To access the archived data (often near-realtime, with lags of 10-30 minutes), you need to register with their data management system (it’s free and easy). In very rare cases, data may have been redacted by Naval personnel.

ONC map of hydrophones located off the Fraser River mouth.
Clayoquot Slope
Mothra hydrothermal vent
Cascadia basin

SIMRES = Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society

Update 2/11/2023: SIMRES mp3 stream seems to be down. Also, just tried again to access any archived SIMRES data via ONC Oceans 3.0 data portal with no dice:

Update 4/4/2022: As of late March, 2022, SIMRES is providing a live MP3 stream to the Saturna Island hydrophones (scroll down to the play button, or access direct link or stream info page). The location is listed as “ṮEḴTEḴSEN (East Point, Saturna Island)” but I think the stereo stream is presenting two channels: one from Monarch Head, the other from East Point.

Update 10/21/2022: Just noticed that the SIMRES live stream status page has this note:

Stream Description:Live Stream from ṮEḴTEḴSEN (East Point, HF1288) and SNEUES (Monarch Head, HF6033), on left and right channels respectively. Audio is delayed 6 minutes from real time.

Update 11/11/2022, 12:30 Pacific: J+L pods northbound from Orcasound Lab rounding Turn Point, and Facebook folks notice that SIMRES live stream is down…

Update 1/4/2023, 11:00 Pacific: At least J pod northbound from last acoustic detection from Orcasound Lab are heard echolocating and calling by Monika Wieland Shields and Fred Horn (as reported via Facebook group Whale Sightings in the San Juans).

The Canadian NGO SIMRES, led first by Captain Larry Peck and more recently Martin Wale, maintains cabled icListen hydrophones deployed near the shoreline of ṮEḴTEḴSEN (Saturna Island, at East Point) and the next point to the south: SNEUES (Monarch Head). This is a magnificent vantage point for listening to the southern Strait of Georgia and Boundary Pass.

The Monarch Head hydrophone was redeployed in July, 2016. According to the ONC/DMAS metadata, the SIMRES-owned hydrophones are IClisten HF devices with GPS-based time synchronization. The sampling rates are 64 kHz for wav data and 256 kHz for power spectral density data. Data use requires SIMRES written permission.

  • East Point
    • Depth: 27m
    • Lat:48° 46.8250′
    • Long: -123° 03.0900′
  • Monarch Head
    • Depth: 20m
    • Lat:48° 45.9970′
    • Long: -123° 05.4610′

Despite my best efforts, I’ve not been able to access the data via the ONC archive. Selecting the hydrophone at either node results in this alert:

Perhaps one must contact SIMRES to listen? We’ll look into it further…

Orca Lab

For nearly 50 years, Paul Spong and Helena Symonds of Orca Lab have maintained the Orca-Live hydrophone network in Johnstone Strait (at the north end of Vancouver Island). They have a diversifying array of ways to listen to the amazing marine soundscapes in which they live along with orcas, humpbacks, and even the occasional sperm whale (in 2018).

Pacific Wild

Another great Canadian NGO, Pacific Wild, maintains the Great Bear Sea Hydrophone Network in partnership with the Heiltsuk First Nation. Based out of Bella Bella, BC, the network is an impressive deployment of hydrophones (and in many cases cameras) in a remote wilderness. As of 2012, this post describes their technological innovations.

In Spring 2017, they advertised for a technician with the skills to improve/fix their network… and their winter 2017 newsletter indicated that they were taking a break but planned to share recordings from 5years of hard effort in 2018:

As of March 2018, I’m not able to find a live stream link on their site, but they have a wonderful archives:

Cetacea Lab

Janie Wray and Hermann Meuter of Cetacealab maintain a network of hydrophones on the northern BC coast. Their web site suggests they occasionally broadcast a live stream, but I’ve not witnessed it in action, likely due to their remote location, off-grid power system, and limited internet access.

4 thoughts on “Shortcuts for listening to the Canadian Pacific

    1. Scott Veirs says:

      Hi Cathy, if you’re talking about the live feeds for the three Orcasound hydrophones, here are the links to which you should point your favorite browser:

      We still recommend Chrome for best performance on any operating system, though any browser should work.

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