by Rob MacKenzie
Last week, our plans and hard work came together as we installed a hydrophone at a new site. We are now receiving and recording at the Simonds group, just inside Goose Island. We are excited about this site, as it is our furthest from our relay station, and most exposed of any of locations. This addition to our network greatly expands our ability to hear whales moving through the area and get an idea of their patterns over time.
We arrived early in the morning, the fog still hugging the ocean. We had been preparing the hydrophone cables and anchor the previous week. Because of the heavy exposure, this site will be subject to some strong currents and swells; we built this station to be more robust than our other installations. The hydrophone cable is protected by a steel-lined hose that passes through the intertidal zone down deep onto the ocean floor. This is mechanically secured to a heavy nylon line with lead weights distributed throughout it to prevent the waves and current from moving the cable from its installed location. A rock bolt holds the top of the line, and a large anchor secures the underwater side. Building and installing this line was a fun challenge to tackle, as we needed to figure out new ways to manage the increased weight. The whole underwater installation is approximately 600 kg.
The HIRMD staff and the SEAS interns were on site to aid with the installation. We also had the help of Matt Arnold of GreenSea Diving, a commercial diver who was teaching a dry suit diving course to school children in the area. Matt was able to survey the area we were interested in, surfacing with a description and some images of the underwater world. He was able to guide the placement of our underwater cable and our hydrophone, acting as our eyes below the surface. We are lucky to have friends who care about the coast and are willing to donate their time and expertise. Everyone who visits seems to agree on the importance studying and preserving the area.
When we finished I was happy to see (and hear) our hard work, sitting on a beautiful little island on the BC coast. I know that the hydrophone will be a key part of the cetacean study in this area, and I feel great that I’ve made a contribution to it.