Researchers have been able to use fiber optic cables to track the estimated positions and tracks of eight fin whales.
The proof-of-concept study occurred in Norway and opens the door for scientists to develop the technology to track whales on a much larger scale one day.
Working in the water off the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the scientists used two fiber optic cables on the seabed to track the whales. The scientists used a system called Distributed Acoustic Sensing, or DAS. This effectively turns the cable into a hydrophone by sending a laser light pulse and waiting for the reply. Notably, fiber optic cables crisscross the world’s oceans, as they are one of the primary means of moving data around the planet.
Commenting on the work, Martin Landrø, research team member and head of the Centre for Geophysical Forecasting at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) stated:
“This work demonstrates how we were able to simultaneously locate and follow these whales over an 1800 km2 area — with relatively low infrastructure investment. This shows that the two fiber cables are a very effective means of monitoring whales in the Arctic. It would open far greater areas for us to follow whale movements in the Arctic.”
While the research team wrote in a statement:
“The capabilities demonstrated here establish the potential for a near-real-time whale tracking capability that could be applied anywhere in the world where there are whales and fiber-optic cables. Coupled with ship detection, using a similar approach … a real-time collision avoidance system could be developed to reduce ship strikes.”
You can find the original research here.