Offshore buoy detects its first whale in waters along New York City

Earlier this year, a team of scientists from the New York Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution deployed an acoustic buoy to record the sound of whales off the coast of New York City. The buoy is listening 24/7 and conducting the largest ever survey of the whales that visit the Big Apple. Within two weeks, the listening post recorded its first visitor, and it was a big one — a fin whale.

In what’s likely a surprising revelation to many people, New York is home to a diverse population of whales, with seven different species having been sighted offshore by both scientists and whale-watching vessels. Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the New York Aquarium, wanted to learn more about this population and deployed a sophisticated acoustic listening buoy that’ll float off the shore. The bright orange buoy will bob at the surface of the ocean in a location known as the New York Bight, a wedge-shaped section of the continental shelf that extends from the eastern tip of Long Island to the Cape May area of New Jersey.

Designed by Woods Hole scientists and manufactured by EOM Offshore, the buoy is comprised of three essential parts — an orange surface portion with a satellite antenna, an anchored bottom node with a digital acoustic monitoring device, and a stretch hose that transmits sounds from the monitoring to the surface. Themonitoring device hovers a few feet above the ocean floor, capturing and recording the vocalizations of the offshore whales. It can distinguish whale sounds from background noises and identifies which whales are making that sound. These signals are sent through the stretch hoses to the buoy, where a satellite antenna is used to send the information to a land-based computer. The recorded data is then shared on a public website in nearly real time.

After deploying the device on June 23, the team recorded its first whale vocalization a mere 12 days later on July 4. The first whale to visit the buoy was a fin whale, the world’s second-largest species of whale. Known for its streamlined shape and dorsal fin, the fin whale is commonly spotted in the Bight by whale watchers. Since its first vocalization, the fin whale has been detected several times, with the most recent visit  recorded on July 30. Only the fin whale has been identified to date, but the researchers expect to hear other whales, such as the commonly spotted humpback whale and the endangered North Atlantic right whale, in the future.

Besides its obvious scientific utility, the acoustical whale survey also is an integral part of BlueYork, a larger educational campaign to inform New Yorkers of the diverse aquatic ecosystem sitting on their doorstep. “We’re excited to share this discovery with the residents of New York City and to help promote a better awareness of these marine mammals in the region,” said New York Aquarium Vice President Jon Forrest in a statement. “The acoustic buoy will help us monitor the whales and learn more about their needs. New Yorkers can now share in that process of discovery and conservation.”

Emerging Tech

Only three people have explored the deep oceans. Meet the next two

In a new mission called Five Deeps, a team of explorers will brave the inhospitable depths of the world’s oceans, observing, mapping, and collecting samples along the way. The explorers aim to traverse 40,000 nautical miles over the…
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.