Archive for August, 2009

Navy recording of transient orcas

In a recent meeting led by Rear Admiral James Symonds (Commander, Navy Region Northwest), Shaari Unger of Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), Division Keyport, kindly handed out a CD with a great recording of transient orcas made in Dabob Bay (Hood Canal, WA) on February 10, 2005.  She asked if any and all acoustic afficionados could listen to it and analyze it.

I’ve converted the 425Mb AIFF file into a 15Mb mp3 archived on the server for easier, broader distribution.  Open it in your favorite analysis package or player (like the free, platform-independent Audacity shown at right), add your second-by-second notes to the public Google spreadsheet, and/or comment on it here.  Here is a data directory with a sampling of the signals present in 42-minute-long recording.

Here’s hoping our Northwest Navy neighbors are able to acquire and release additional recordings like this one that help us understand and enjoy the marine environment.

The CD jacket provides the following information:

  • The point of contact for the recording is NAVSEA, Keyport Public Affairs Officer, (360) 396-2699,
  • Start time: 10:45 (PST) 10 Feb 2005
  • End time: 11:27 (PST) 10 Feb 2005
  • Weather: Sunny and clear, unlimited visibility, light winds
  • Tide: Outgoing predicted heights: 10:45 – 6′; 11:30 – 5.5′
  • Animals (data compiled by John Durban and Graeme Ellis): These are six killer whales, known to be part of the ‘west coast transient’ stock that ranges between the coastal waters of SE Alaska and California.  These particular animals have been most frequently documented in SE AK and British Columbia.  This group is comprised of two adult females [(T71 and T124A, both more than 20 years old), each with two offspring – one older offspring per femaile (T71A — 10 years, T124A1 — 9 years) and one younger offspring per female (T71B and T124A2, both around 5 years)].  These two ‘matrilines’ have not always been seen in association with each other.
  • Visual observation during the recording: The animals were off Bolton Peninsula when first sighted.  They were staying in one location moving back and forth over one area, which is considered feeding behavior.  They then moved as a group from Whitney Point south, along the west side of Dabob Bay and continued south out of Dabob Bay.
  • As a standard operating procedure, the NAVSEA Keyport does not conduct active acoustic operations in the presence of whales at any NAVSEA Keyport test range.  The Dabob Bay Range Site is staffed during normal working hours by NAVSEA Keyport.  Our range operators are trained by NOAA to identify marine mammals.
NOAA chart showing Bolton Peninsula in Dabob Bay, part of Hood Canal in Washington State. (source:

NUWC maintains and operates the range on Dabob Bay where this recording was made.  Their purpose is to test and evaluate undersea systems in support of research and development, and in support of maintenance and upgrade of existing systems.  There were no operations scheduled the day this was recorded, and all scheduled testing activities were postponed for several days until the range was clear of the transient Orcas.

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Hydrophone listening station at the Seattle Aquarium

The listening station at the Seattle Aquarium lets visitors interact with orca sounds via web-based content (live and recorded audio), a monitor, and a trackball and headphones offered at kid-level on a matriarch’s fin.

At the bottom of the concrete helix at the Seattle Aquarium is the Family Activity Center (FAC)– a marine mammal hub adjacent to the big underwater dome. While fur seals and sea otters dive past visitors one side of the room, the majority of the space is dedicated to presenting the parallels between our human families and those of our regional icon, the killer whale, or orca.

Just a week ago the FAC received an acoustic enrichment. A listening station that enables visitors to listen live to the ocean or hear recordings from underwater has replaced the writing station and a panel describing orca prey (Chinook salmon). The listening station project was proposed by Brooke Nelson and me, managed by Michael Darling, and implemented by me (web design/html/php); Val Veirs (Java coding); Grant Glover, Jesse, Zach, Gary, and team at Pacific Studio (art and kiosk fabrication); Steve Harvey and Richard Ramsby (demolition, Internet, and installation).

Since the station needed Internet access for the live streams, we decided to host content on-line, primarily for ease of maintenance, trouble-shooting, and future enhancement. If you don’t have a chance to visit the Aquarium and test it out in person, you can view the pages here:

The site delivers sound through a Java-based audio player called jlGui that can handle both recorded mp3 files and Shoutcast streams while embedded and hidden within a browser window. There are also some nice photos and words to go along with the sounds.  In the Aquarium, the content is presented on a 22″ monitor (using 1280×768 resolution) by an Eee PC running Firefox with the Open Kiosk plugin over Windows XP Home.  A cool thing about this Eee PC is you can set it to keep running when the case is closed; that enabled us to fit it easily in the constrained space behind the mural.

The highlights of watching folks try it out on the first day were hearing a 9 year-old boy walk away saying “That was really cool,” and a mother telling her child as they departed, “How would you feel if you had to listen to that all day?”  Google Analytics suggests that thus far, about 20 unique visitors per day are listening to the underwater sounds for an average of about 2 minutes.

Below are links to photos of the installation, as well as notes regarding the hard-/software we considered and used in implementing the project.

More photos of the listening station…

Eee PC XP notes:

  1. Install Firefox 3.0.14 (3.5 didn’t work with Open Kiosk — though I didn’t try all version permutations)
  2. Add the Open Kiosk add-on, version = “Firefox 3 Install Here” [July 16, 2009] (follow instructions at — don’t download from the (outdated?) FF add-on site!)
  3. Download JRE ??
  4. Get updates to Java (upon autoprompt) (installed JRE and registered it…)
  5. Disabled login screen; made user1 autologin (no password prompt)
  6. Scheduled FF to run at system re/boot for user1
  7. Used Kiosk admin UI to set FF-Kiosk-fullscreen to be default browser (firefox.exe -kiosk admin)
  8. Had to restart Firefox a few times in safe-mode w/various defaults re-set… (via firefox.exe -safe-mode)
  9. Enable jsLib 0.1.359 and BMA Kiosk 1.65
    • Change default start page
    • Under Filters tab click “Enable JavaScript on all pages” (so streams can be played through browser)
    • Under Sessions tab: set Kiosk to reset session after 5 minutes (max time anyone likely to listen?)
    • Under Customize tab: Disable tabbed browsing and Hide All UI Widgets
    • Click OK
  10. Test it out (Launch under Kiosk submenu); first time I clicked on link to page that calls jlgui player, I got auto update of JRE6, then Security query re JavaZoom Team digital signature not being verifiable — clicked Always trust and Run; stream started after about 10s load/lag-time…
  11. Had to de-select location under the View menu in FF to get location bar at bottom of window to be hidden in Kiosk mode
  12. Back in admin, make FF-kiosk the default browser and select full-screen mode
  13. Reboot computer and see if FF-kiosk comes up automatically with start screen
  14. Reboot performance: blue screen at 30s, desktop at 40s; start screen in FF-kiosk mode in 65s, but XP Taskbar locked and visible at bottom of screen (though non-reactive to clicks); select auto-hide in Taskbar properties; reboot…
  15. Reboot performance: blue screen at 30s, chime at 37, desktop at 50, start screen in FF-kiosk mode in 70s
  16. Now has gap at bottom where taskbar is hiding, and location bar is back… (solved by resetting defaults via -safe-mode)

XP takes about 45 seconds to boot up to desktop

Eee PC Xandros 4Gb notes:
— Took WAY too long to get a real desktop environment
++ Wireless connected automagically
— Open Kiosk didn’t seem to want to run on the version of Firefox I initially downloaded (but I didn’t keep good notes on which permutations I tried…)

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