On Saturday night, the 5th November, people listening to the live streaming hydrophone deployed off Lime Kiln Point State Park were surprised and thrilled to hear the calls of a humpback drift out over the airwaves. But as I write this post I find myself listening to humpback calls again, this time live -perhaps it is the same whale as last night, perhaps a different one.

On Saturday night the whale (there might have been more than one) vocalized for over 2 hours in a quiet Salish Sea. Click the link below to listen to the whale yourself!

Humpback whale recording

We know little about these whales that have returned to spend more and more time in the inland coastal waters of southern British Columbia and northern Washington State ꟷcollectively known as the Salish Sea. Once, they were plentiful and common, but in the early 20th century humpback whales were extirpated from these coastal waters after becoming easy targets for the commercial shore based whaling stations. Humpbacks have been returning to BC and WA waters in increasing numbers to spend the summer feeding. Until recently only a few humpbacks would be seen around the Salish Sea each year apparently transiting through on their way to feeding areas further north. But over the last few years humpbacks have become a relative staple of the local whale watching fleet staying in the Salish Sea for longer each year.


Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, San Juan Island.

The Lime Kiln Point hydrophone was deployed by Dr. Jason Wood of SMRU Consulting North America in collaboration with the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. The data recorded from the hydrophone will allow us to better understand the effects of noise on Southern Resident killer whales. Recording humpback calls is an unexpected bonus.

The  hydrophone also streams live over the web allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to listen in on the underwater world of the Salish Sea. On occasions like tonight and last night, people listening in from around the world will sometimes hit record allowing those of us that missed the live show to enjoy the sounds of whales as they called out into the dark seas surrounding the San Juan Islands.

We’d like to thank local naturalist and wildlife photographer Traci Walter for recording Friday night’s humpback whale chorus.

Click here to listen live

Click here to learn more about the Lime Kiln Point hydrophone project

Click here to read our recent blog post about the recovery of humpback whales