Technology Making strides in the Whale’s Protection and Exploitation
From spy drones to underwater cameras to personal computers with internet, we are deeply connected to technology every single day. High tech devices work around the clock and help to survive in today’s ever changing environment. For some people, technology is a necessary element of their life, whether it be their cell phone or an elaborate keyboard or handheld computer. In this article I want to take a closer look at this ever-increasing technological phenomena called technology.
Technology is a term that seems to go hand in hand with humankind. In the early 1900’s the theory of evolution was still fresh in minds and mankind had yet to create the first radio satellite or even successfully paint a car. The early explorers were quite baffled by the unspecific nature of the signals they received back from space. Some scratched their heads and tried to figure out exactly what the signals said. Others spent countless hours recording their findings in the hope of one day being able to decipher what they meant. No one was really sure at the time, if they were even capable of doing so.
It wasn’t until the Second World War that scientists and explorers really began to pay more attention to the ocean’s vast structure. During that time a great deal of effort was placed on finding ways to send information back and forth across the ocean without being lost in the tumultuous seas. One such way to do this was to use sonar, or sound waves, to locate boats.
When ships were put to sea during that time there was little in terms of navigation available for sailors. Navigation was made possible by using starspots, and although these navigation aids could sometimes be inaccurate due to the lack of atmosphere, especially on the southern resident orcas, they were an important aid when trying to locate other vessels. This led to the development of radars and lasers that were able to better pinpoint boat positions. This technology was crucial in helping to whale watch and detect vessel traffic as it often took a long time for whales to return home.
In the 1980s the focus turned to marine mammals as more advanced technology began to be built into new ships. Marine biologists quickly figured out that whales could follow the same migratory paths as other creatures, including the orca. This meant that these large animals could follow pod after pod looking for their next meal. Using this information as a reference point, marine biologists were able to map the paths of these pods and found that areas frequently took the same route each year.
In 1992 the Cetacean Research Project took a new and drastic step forward. The idea here was to use sonar to find the direction and location of the orcas’ pods, as well as track the activities of the adult or in their home waters. Although many scientists were skeptical at first, as with everything new this approach seemed to work. In 1994 the West Coast Humpback Whales was added to the endangered species list.
In the last ten years acoustic sensors have been incorporated into Google Earth. These are tracking devices that are capable of identifying whale sounds under different conditions. The deep underwater noise sources of the orca, the common killer whale, the common wahoo, and the calico whale can all be identified using these sensors. As this technology is further developed it will allow whales and other ocean wildlife to enjoy a greater habitat.
While technology has helped to reduce ship strikes against whales, it still has a long way to go. There are many areas around the world that continue to be highly dangerous for the animals. One of the most high profile events happened in 2021 when the Sea World in San Diego was hit by three cruise ships that came dangerously close to the whale-watching rookeries. Fortunately, none of the ships were harmed. However, the tragic death of the orca whale highlighted the danger to these animals from human contact.