satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Midway: EARs Listen for Whales

Humpback Whale; picture from Wikipedia
There just might be Humpback Whales hanging around Midway during the winter.

We've known for a long time that in late fall Humpbacks travel from the Alaska area to main Hawaiian islands, especially Maui.  During their winter in Hawai`i, these whales do family things: mate, give birth and take care of little whales...and the mature males sing.

Now there's scientific evidence showing that maybe the whole Hawaiian archipelago, from the Big Island of Hawai`i all the way to Kure Atoll, is the site of one, big winter-time Humpback Whale "family reunion."  In 2006 scientists began to see more whales around the small islands, atolls and coral reefs northwest of Honolulu.  Hhhhmmmm, researchers from the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology, the Joint Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Research, as well as NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division decided to find out more.  So, in 2008 they tuned their ears to listen for whale song.

White circles show EAR locations; see reference below for source of map
spectrogram of a Humpback Whale song; see reference below
Make that EARs, or ecological acoustic recorders.  About ten EARs were placed at various places along the island chain.  Whale songs were recorded at all locations!  The picture at the right is called a "spectrogram."  Its horizontal axis represents 30 seconds of time, and the vertical axis is the frequency, or pitch of the whale sound.  I think the spectrogram shows a lot of little blips of sound at different pitches; what do you think?

I'm  pretty sure this whale song from NOAA wasn't recorded at Midway.  The mp3 is about 13 minutes long, but maybe you'd like to listen for awhile--  _____________________________________________________________________________
Lammers, M.O., Fisher-Pool, P.I., Au, W.W.L., Meyer, C.G., Wong, K.B., Brainard, R.E. (2011) Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae song reveals wintering activity in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 423:261-268.