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Orca calls make for great radio:
Researchers all over the world interested in whale's unique voice
The Province -

He might not know it, but Luna's in good company the world over these days.

Researchers around the globe, including Australia, the U.S., Scotland, the Netherlands and Germany, are listening in on the vocalizations of B.C.'s solitary orca, who surfaced in Nootka Sound four years ago.

As part of the LunaLive project, about a dozen international researchers tune in regularly to live Internet broadcasts of the noises Luna makes, which get broadcast through a hydrophone and satellite uplink.

Keith Wood, program administrator for LunaLive, says the idea is to get a complete baseline description of Luna's vocal behaviour and to see if he's able to learn new calls without a pod teaching him.

The information could prove valuable if Luna is reunited with his pod. Researchers could then track his movements by listening for his unique voice, Wood says.

The project is a joint endeavour between the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation and various environmental and scientific groups.

While no one knows for sure what Luna's vocalizations mean, Wood, a software developer by training, says the sounds are fascinating.

Thursday night proved particularly exciting when 130 of Luna's calls were logged -- compared to the usual 20 to 30. "He was just feeling exuberant," says Wood. "It was an acoustic event. There was much more energy than usual."

John Ford, whale researcher with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, says sound is the main sense whales use to navigate and find food. Each pod uses its own distinct dialect to stay connected.

Samples of Luna's vocalizations can be heard at

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