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J Acoust Soc Am. 2000 Jun;107(6):3509-17.

Calibration and comparison of the acoustic location methods used during the spring migration of the bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, off Pt. Barrow, Alaska, 1984-1993.

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  • 1Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bioacoustics Research Program, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA.


Between 1984 and 1993, visual and acoustic methods were combined to census the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, population. Passive acoustic location was based on arrival-time differences of transient bowhead sounds detected on sparse arrays of three to five hydrophones distributed over distances of 1.5-4.5 km along the ice edge. Arrival-time differences were calculated from either digital cross correlation of spectrograms (old method), or digital cross correlation of time waveforms (new method). Acoustic calibration was conducted in situ in 1985 at five sites with visual site position determined by triangulation using two theodolites. The discrepancy between visual and acoustic locations was <1%-5% of visual range and less than 0.7 degrees of visual bearing for either method. Comparison of calibration results indicates that the new method yielded slightly more precise and accurate positions than the old method. Comparison of 217 bowhead whale call locations from both acoustic methods showed that the new method was more precise, with location errors 3-4 times smaller than the old method. Overall, low-frequency bowhead transients were reliably located out to ranges of 3-4 times array size. At these ranges in shallow water, signal propagation appears to be dominated by the fundamental mode and is not corrupted by multipath.

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