Centered within the summertime habitat of the endangered southern resident killer whales, Orcasound Lab is a good place to listen for orcas as well as ships passing through Haro Strait and boats traveling along the west side of San Juan Island. In the fall you can hear humpbacks, and in the summer male harbor seals vocalize nearby. The hydrophones were first deployed in 2002 just beyond the kelp about 30 m offshore at a depth of 8m. Orcasound Lab is hosted by Beam Reach, a social purpose corporation based in Seattle.
- Election night humpback calls at Orcasound Lab (11/4/2020)
- Acoustic inference as J pod departs Puget Sound & heads to Canada (10/1/2020)
- Orcas head north & south for Salish Sea salmon (9/27/2020)
Orcasound Lab is also the home and laboratory of Dr. Val Veirs who first deployed hydrophones there in the early 2000s with physics and environmental science students from Colorado College. Early on, the node hosted an array of 4-8 hydrophones stretched ~200 meters along-shore at depths of 5-20 meters. Since then, there have been many experimental hydrophone deployments, repairs, and acoustic research projects conducted at the node. Orcasound Lab is where we often test new technologies and hardware before sharing it with the rest of the hydrophone network.
In November, 2018, we were streaming from and testing ITC hydrophones with custom pre-amps mounted on PVC tripods 1-2 m above the gravel bottom. We also began testing a binaural array with elements from LabCore Systems (Lon Brocklehurst) and Cetacean Research Technology (Joe Olson).
Cables traverse the rocky intertidal within drainage pipe protection or up a crab pot line anchored by a sub-tidal boulder and the bluff, and then run to both data-logging and streaming computers. Custom software written in Visual Basic and more recently Qt by Val Veirs assesses average underwater sound levels and automatically detects “unusual” sounds, while the 2019 Orcasound hardware/software streams data to the cloud.
More photographs of Orcasound Lab: