Autonomous Real-time Marine Mammal Detections

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Great South Channel, Gulf of Maine, Spring 2014


Slocum glider we04 (deployed Apr 25, 2014)

Slocum glider we08 (deployed Apr 25, 2014)

Study objectives
Gliders were deployed in the Great South Channel in the southwestern Gulf of Maine to locate highly endangered North Atlantic right whales in advance of a NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center cruise to the region. The objectives of the cruise are to photo identify, biopsy, and tag right whales. The gliders are being used as a reconnaissance tool to improve the efficiency of locating and studying whales, allowing researchers to spend less time searching for the whales and more time studying them.

Principal Investigator: Mark Baumgartner (WHOI)

Collaborators: Peter Corkeron and Sofie Van Parijs (NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center)


Please email Mark Baumgartner at For a general desciption of the detection system and the autonomous platforms, visit

Study chronology
Apr 25
The gliders were deployed today from the F/V Sea Holly. Glider we04 immediately reported the usual cacophony of humpback whale song, as well as the repetitive 20-Hz pulse of the fin whale. Glider we08 heard humpback and fin whales, too.

Apr 26
We are finding the gliders are hard to navigate accurately in the strong tidal currents of the Great South Channel. Glider we04 is having a hard time hitting a nearby waypoint, but we08 has started its way east across the channel. Both gliders continue to report fin and humpback whale calls. For the first time ever, one of the gliders (we08) has detected and reported sei whale downsweep calls. These calls sweep down from around 90 to 30 Hz, and are often produced in pairs. Several sei whale downsweep pairs can be seen here.

Apr 27
Glider we04 finally started heading east after some adjustments to its autonomous behavior. There were right whale detections reported around sundown at 7:30 pm local time. Some of these were accompanied by humpback calls, but others were detected without any accompanying sounds. These isolated non-repetitive calls are likely being made by right whales. Glider we04 continued to report humpback and fin whale calls that are easily identified in the pitch track data. Around midnight, glider we08 reported a leak after it began diving to 170 m in the late afternoon. The glider automatically returned to the surface and remained there. We commanded the glider to resume diving, whereupon the leak seemed to worsen. We decided to have we08 dive to only 50 m for the rest of its mission, and performed well for the rest of the day. It reported calls of fin, humpback, and sei whales today.

Apr 28
Numerous fin whale calls were reported from glider we04, including some interesting double 20-Hz pulses. Glider we04 continued to hear humpback calls, but there were occasional upsweeps that suggested right whales may be present as well; however, many of these upsweeps were accompanied by humpback whale calls. Lots and lots of humpback whale calls were reported by glider we08. Won't these whales ever shut up so we can hear right whales?


The gliders were expertly prepared and deployed by Ben Hodges (WHOI), and at sea assistance was provided by Mark Leach of the F/V Sea Holly. Support for the deployment and operation of the gliders was provided by the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center via the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region. The DMON instrument was developed by Mark Johnson and Tom Hurst at WHOI. Mark Johnson was responsible for developing the application programming interface (API) for the DMON, and coded the initial DMON implementation of the pitch tracking algorithm described in Baumgartner and Mussoline (2011). Support for the development, integration, and testing of the glider DMON/LFDCS was provided by the Office of Naval Research and the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Advanced Sampling Technologies Working Group in collaboration with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Passive Acoustics Research Group (leader: Sofie Van Parijs).