“The gurgles, whistles, and squeaks of humpback whales singing off Hawaii’s island shores can now be heard live, courtesy of underwater microphones placed near Puako, Hawaii by the Jupiter Research Foundation.
Eavesdropping on this underwater soundscape reveals that the enormous marine mammals — which can reach more than 15 meters (50 feet) long — at times sound like cows, coyotes or UFOs.
Male humpbacks can sing for hours, a behavior thought to play a role in attracting mates. Their all-day chorus contains repeating low-frequency notes and melodies that can be heard many kilometers away. Females also vocalize, but they don’t sing.
Humpbacks congregate near Hawaii in late December to breed, and stick around through April. In 2003, the Jupiter Research Foundation dropped its first hydrophone into the islands’ warm coastal waters and they’ve been broadcasting the sounds each year since 2004; this year’s broadcast just went live last week. Deployed along with a heavy anchor, the hydrophones sit at a depth of about 18 meters (60 feet). They connect to solar-powered buoys on the surface that transmit signals to a radio relay station in the Kohala mountains.”