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Scenic ByWays Grant Provides Funding for Educational Exhibits at the Lighthouse
  Hydrophone buoy for sending the audio signal back to the lighthouse

A Scenic ByWays Grant is allowing travelers to visit Five Finger Lighthouse and see humpback whale research up close. This past summer a new hydrophone and speaker system greeted visitors with an astonishing array of whale vocalizations, including grunts, shrieks and trumpets! To climb the spiral staircase into the lighthouse tower is to journey back in time with exhibits on whaling and lighthouse history. The Scenic ByWays Grant also funded outdoor interpretive panels on oceanography, forest and intertidal communities (1.9M PDF file).

A lunge feeding humpback whale (Images and sounds obtained under NMFS 14599) Permit) Photo: Jodi Frediani  

In mid-summer, nearly 400 whales were feeding between Petersburg and the lighthouse, so visitors arrived with lots of questions! Alaska Whale Foundation biologists were present all summer to celebrate whale behavior and answer queries. The visitor experience was by further enhanced by Scenic ByWay Grant funding for much needed improvements to island access.

So plan your visit to Five Finger Lighthouse today to see a historical treasure and be part of cutting edge humpback whale research. Click on the icons below to sample some of the whale calls recorded this summer.

  This ByWays Grant supported the custom building of our wireless hydrophone system by Cetacean Research Technologies. We recorded for over 500 hours and gathered 15,000 humpback generated sounds (breaches, blows, screams & trumpets).

Audio Files

  • Humpback Scream (635K WAV file) - A scream suggestive of an elevated emotional state previously we have heard these screams in association with surface aggression (head lunges, tail slashes, underwater exhalations) suggesting command & control issues of team bubble net

  • Chuckle (2.3 WAV file) - As with most humpback calls, the functions of chuckles are uncertain. However, their rising inflection suggests appeasment or inquisitiveness. Feeding calls can be heard in the background.

Graphic Panels
The Scenic ByWays Grant also funded outdoor interpretive panels on oceanography, forest and intertidal communities, Humpback Whale research and stories, and the Five Finger lighthouse station history.

Credits: Interpretive panel design, illustration and photography by Sharon Birzer at Birzer Studios. Photos, text, and black and white illustrations (orchids, song sparrow and black turnstone) by Fred Sharpe. Text by Andy Szabo at Alaska Whale foundation. Bathymetry by Robert Szucs/Alaska Whale Foundation. Tlingit whale by Barry Herem. Additional assistance by Jennifer Klein of Juneau lighthouse Association. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Images and sound obtained under NMFS Permit 14599

Lighthouse visitors learning about humpback acoustics from Dawn Barlow, a student investigator from Pitzer College
Humpback whale fluke (Images and sound obtained under NMFS Permit 14599)
Orcas cruising the area (Images and sound obtained under NMFS Permit 14599)

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