July 28, 2006

[If you have not been keeping in touch with the MICS newsletter, please refer to the July 7 entry below regarding Pop-up hydrophones.]

On July 26, one of the most bizarre events to have occurred at MICS took place. We received a call from Cornell University announcing that Pop-up #2, the one that we had deployed in Baie-Ste-Marguerite, had been found. After having drifted for at least three weeks (possibly six, and probably more), we expected the buoy to be found along some distant shore, perhaps in Gaspésie or Newfoundland. That was not the case. Somehow, the currents, the winds, and the waves combined forces and carried the 6 000 $ piece of equipment directly to us!!! Arnold Beaudin, captain of the “Loup marin”, a small boat used to bring tourists to visit the Mingan Islands, found the buoy. As he was ferrying a group of people from Île-aux-Perroquets to Île-Nue, M. Beaudin spotted the yellow sphere, 50 cm in diameter, bobbing in the waves approximately 1 km offshore, directly in front of our headquarters in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan! It was the red plates on the buoy that tweaked his curiosity. After one of the tourists on board translated the inscription mentioning a 250$ reward, M. Beaudin quickly picked up the pop-up and dialled the toll-free number as soon as the boat was onshore. M. Beaudin had not heard about our previous efforts to retrieve the hydrophone.

Analysis of the recordings should enable us to discern whether the hydrophone was dragged from its resting place or if a malfunction caused it to “pop-up” earlier than planned. Whatever happened to Pop-up #2, the fact that its journey ended directly in front of the station, approximately 94 nautical miles (174 km; 108 miles) from where it had been deployed, borders on the supernatural! Hopefully, the hydrophone’s equipment will have remained intact and we will be able to analyse the recordings to know more about the movements of the whales during the winter.

A few improvements have been made to our interpretation centre. A new acoustics room has been added. This exhibition brings the visitor underwater to see and hear eight species of cetaceans found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A multi-media sound system gives theatre-quality effects of the various clicks, squeals and low frequencies produced by the animals as they swim by. From the Harbour Porpoise to the Blue Whale, visitors can now enter the realm of the whales without getting wet!

Thanks to Parks Canada, who share part of our reception and information desk, we finally have newly designed road signs leading to the station. The project also included new welcome signs on the building and four banners in the parking lot. We hope that these new signs will attract more people to the interpretation centre and help us pay for the increasing costs of research.