Orcas make one heck of an alarm clock

Isabelle Hurley 2016 IMG_3193

At 4:30 am today (June 29) we were woken up by a squeal over the hydrophone that sounded like “hello!”.  It was an N1 call from the A34 orcas!  They were calling at Critical Point.  We sprang from our beds and climbed down from the loft above the lab and immediately started recording.  We took turns distinguishing where the calls were coming from through bleary eyes, boat noise and copious amounts of coffee.

We had in fact only four short hours earlier heard this same group on the hydrophones.  We picked them up at Flower Island and listened to their calls till they swam right past OrcaLab where we were ready with cameras and video recorders.  Around 11pm as it was getting dark we even got to watch as they rubbed themselves on the rubbing beach via our remote camera system.  Once they left our hydrophone range we decided to call it a day and head to bed, knowing there was a pretty good chance they’d be back before long!

This was a really exciting occasion for us as it marks the first time the A1s have been back to Blackney Pass this season!  When watching the group move past the lab from North to South, Helena was pleased to identify that there was a new baby among them! So good news all round. Looks like plenty more early mornings are on the cards!

By Isabelle Hurley

(with apologies from Paul for the delay in posting)


Megan’s introduction to 2016

Megan 2016 IMG_0708

Having only been back at Orcalab less than 24 hours The A34’s and A46 came into the area. What a lovely surprise…Hope you guys enjoy this little snippet of whats in store for us all this summer!

by Megan Hockin-Bennett

An Exciting First Day of Summer at OrcaLab!

HB 6.23.16_Debs


An Exciting First Day of Summer at OrcaLab!!-a day in the life of our research assistants

Rain and mist had set in heavily over OrcaLab, and the internet was down. All seemed calm and quiet out at sea so Dr. Paul Spong took us on “June Cove”, the larger of OrcaLab’s two boats, over to Parson Island to try to fix the problem and get OrcaLab back online. The three of us hiked to the top of Parson Island in the rain and perched precariously on a cliff edge to put gas in the generator and check on all the solar panels. After five minutes and some expert twiddling we managed to fix the internet and OrcaLab was back online! Back down at the boat preparing for departure the most amazing thing happened. A humpback whale exploded out of the water beside us and lunge fed right next to the boat! The first lunge came totally by surprise but the second one became obvious as the water came alive and seemed to be almost boiling with little fish being pushed up, followed by the open mouth of the humpback as it broke the surface! Of course none of us on board had their camera but Debs did get a picture on her cellphone!

In the afternoon we travelled with Dr. Spong to another little island across the way, Flower Island, to set up a hydrophone to replace an old one which had finally given up last year, after 30 years’ service under the waves! With the help of a GoPro and fellow researcher Jared Towers we managed to lower it down to the sea floor and position it correctly. With the hydrophone working properly and broadcasting undersea sounds to the Lab and world, we travelled back to OrcaLab for a well earned warm meal that was awaiting us. What an amazing start to what’s sure to be a fantastic summer!
FI hydrophne 2016


by Isabelle and Debs, June 23, 2016