Page last updated at 21:48 GMT, Saturday, 27 September 2008 22:48 UK

The Song of the Whale


Song of the Whale facts and figures

The behaviour and habits of possibly the least understood group of large mammals on the planet, beaked whales, will be under the spotlight over the next few weeks as researchers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) turn their attention to these mysterious creatures.

The Song of the Whale, Ifaw's research vessel, will be seeking out beaked whales in the seas around the Canary Islands.

To take a tour of the vessel, click on the links below.

Computer roomComputer roomA-frameEnter alt textOutriggersOutriggerData logging stationData logging stationEngine roomEngine roomPropellerPropeller

COMPUTER ROOM

Computer room

Five standard PCs are used for communications, data logging and analysing the information collected from the hydrophones, the ship's underwater microphones used to monitor whales.

A-FRAME

A-frame

An unusual feature in a sailing boat, the A-frame serves as a lookout about 5m above sea level. This gives the crew a good view around the boat and is quicker to reach than the crow's nest.

Photographs, videos and measurements are taken here.

The post is occupied during daylight hours in light to moderate weather conditions. Two people can work here at any given time.

Two wind turbines reduce the workload of the ship's generator.

OUTRIGGERS

Outrigger

The hydrophones - microphones used for listening to sounds produced underwater - are placed on cables 400m long that trail behind the boat. At least one set of cables will be deployed at all times, occasionally two will be used.

A range of high and low sound frequencies can be monitored using the hydrophones, anything from 20Hz -150 kHz - the range needed to monitor all the species of whales, dolphins and porpoises that researchers follow.

Cranes or outriggers are used to keep the cables away from the boat's wake and so reduce the amount of background noise.

DATA LOGGING STATION
Data-logging station

This part of the boat is crewed nearly 24 hours a day, as crew members listen out for whale and dolphin species.

The ship's crew work outside in fair weather monitoring the hydrophones and logging any sightings.

All the data is stored, enabling researchers to compare recordings made at various times during the trip.

ENGINE ROOM
Engine room

The ship's diesel engine is capable of 375 hp. All the equipment in the engine room has been chosen to be low maintenance and to produce minimum noise.

The room is sound proofed to a higher specification than normal and even the electrical systems have been developed specifically to protect the research equipment from high frequency noise.

PROPELLER

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These propellers are designed to operate quietly

Propellers are typically one of the noisiest parts of any craft, but these are built to be as quiet as possible.

This minimises the impact on the whales being studied and prevents interference with monitoring equipment.

Although the propeller is relatively quiet it does generate a lot of drag, slowing the boat down when under sail.

It is also designed to reduce injury to marine life in the event of a collision.




SEE ALSO
Oceans are 'too noisy' for whales
15 Sep 08 |  Science & Environment
Dolphin deaths blamed on fishing
06 Jul 08 |  Cornwall
Mixed fortunes for world's whales
12 Aug 08 |  Science & Environment
Mystery of dolphin mass stranding
10 Jun 08 |  Cornwall
Whales 'suffer from the bends'
23 Dec 04 |  Science & Environment
Undersea noise 'does harm whales'
22 Jul 04 |  Science & Environment
Sonar 'may cause whale deaths'
08 Oct 03 |  Science & Environment

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