A new series of live cameras has launched that lets you watch wild orcas from the comfort of your own home. Their location, near Hanson Island off the central coast of British Columbia, Canada, is a popular spot for families of orcas to gather, meaning that viewers can expect regular sightings.
The project is a partnership between explore.org and OrcaLab, which seeks to research orcas without interfering with their lives. If you don't feel like watching the streams 24/7, you can also sign up for text alerts (on the left hand side as you scroll down the explore.org page), which will inform you when the orcas are active. This is possible thanks to a network of underwater microphones, known as hydrophones, which cover 50 square kilometers (20 square miles) of the core orca habitat.
Shown above is the main OrcaLab Base camera.
“Hanson Island is a pearl of the planet,” Charlie Annenberg, founder of explore.org, told IFLScience. “Nature abounds not just with orcas, but with seals, humpbacks, eagles, and so on. The sea and its surrounding ecosystem teem with life to the point that one might want to call it the rainforest of the sea."
Some of the cameras are underwater, while others are above ground to spot when the orcas break the surface. Other cameras will seek to observe a behavior known as “beach rubbing,” where the orcas rub their bodies over smooth pebbles on the seabed. The microphones, meanwhile, will pick up the click of “orca speech,” known as echolocation.
Shown is the location of a camera at a spot dubbed Critical Point on Hanson Island. Jonathan Silvio.
More than 150 orcas are thought to live around Hanson Island in family groups known as matrilines. Some views will be brief, as the orcas swim past, while others will last for hours, days or weeks.
“OrcaLab’s purpose is to learn about the orcas without interfering with their lives, and we expect the cameras to add a valuable dimension to the non-intrusive methods we have been using in our research for decades,” Dr. Paul Spong, the founder of OrcaLab, told IFLScience.
Above is an underwater camera at Cracroft Point.
He added: “We anticipate scientific value to come from the camera network by gaining insights into visual as well as acoustic behaviors. We also hope to involve the public in the lives of orcas and their habitat.”
The team hopes that the cameras will turn the public's fascination with orcas towards actions that help protect their habitat and the oceans they depend on to survive.