Scientific background: Marine mammals use sound for communication, navigation and prey detection. Acoustic sensors therefore allow the detection of marine mammals, even during polar winter months, when restricted visibility prohibits visual sightings. The animals are surrounded by a permanent natural soundscape, which, in polar waters, is mainly dominated by the movement of ice. In addition to the detection of marine mammals, acoustic long-term recordings provide information on intensity and temporal variability of characteristic natural and anthropogenic background sounds, as well as their influence on the vocalization of marine mammals
Scientific objectives: The PerenniAL Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean (PALAOA, Hawaiian “whale”) near Neumayer Station is intended to record the underwater soundscape in the vicinity of the shelf ice edge over the duration of several years. These long-term recordings will allow studying the acoustic repertoire of whales and seals continuously in an environment almost undisturbed by humans. The data will be analyzed to (1) register species specific vocalizations, (2) infer the approximate number of animals inside the measuring range, (3) calculate their movements relative to the observatory, and (4) examine possible effects of the sporadic shipping traffic on the acoustic and locomotive behaviour of marine mammals.
The data, which are largely free of anthropogenic noise, provide also a base to set up passive acoustic mitigation systems used on research vessels. Noise-free bioacoustic data thereby represent the foundation for the development of automatic pattern recognition procedures in the presence of interfering sounds, e.g. propeller noise.