Buoy will eavesdrop on whale songs to help us understand them better

Scientists have deployed a unique buoy 22 miles off the coast of New York’s Fire Island to monitor several species of great whales in “near real-time”. The high-tech acoustic device will eavesdrop on the songs of the whales to better understand and safeguard their movements near two busy shipping lanes entering New York Harbour. Scientists deployed the buoy, which is 4ft in diameter with a mast standing 6ft above the sea surface, south of Long Island last week. The devices will focus on obtaining data about the sounds of several species of baleen whales, which are endangered, said Dr Mark Baumgartner of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

We know they’re there, but we know very little about them.

Dr Howard Rosenbaum, director of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Programme

The data will be transmitted back to scientists in near real-time, for analysis within about two hours, Rosenbaum said. The buoy also will collect the sounds of other whales, but that information will be archived in the listening devices at the bottom of the sea and analysed when the buoy is retrieved after a year, Baumgartner said. The scientists noted that all whales rely on their acoustic environment to socialise and navigate and they are vulnerable to underwater noise, ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements. The research collected could help prevent ship strikes, and may be helpful as the US government and New York state consider placing a massive wind energy farm offshore in the coming years.