Would you like to hear what a porpoise sounds like? The Rugvin Foundation has developed Studio Porpoise to do exactly this. Through this installation, people are offered the opportunity to listen to live porpoise sounds in the waters of the Eastern Scheldt.
Studio Porpoise allows visitors to listen to sounds of porpoises swimming nearby, from a distance of several hundred meters. This means you can both watch and listen to the animals, and hear them project their sounds (echolocation clicks) to find their way, catch preys and communication.
The installation consists of a buoy with a hydrophone and a transmitter, which is placed in the sea at about 250 m from the jetty. This is connected to an information pillar on the jetty, containing a sound receiver, data recorder and speakers. Both wireless installations are powered by PV panels and batteries.
Want to hear a preview? Listen here to an echolocating porpoise
This unique novelty serves two purposes. One is to present the general public the unique experience of a wild living cetacean species in the Netherlands, which can be observed simultaneously by ear and eye. Since the installation was placed, over 10,000 people have been listening to the sound of the porpoises and were often able to see the mammals at the same time.
The other purpose is to learn more about the species itself. The effects of abiotic and biotic actors (tidal currents, time of day, season and others) on the presence of the harbour porpoise are now being studied by analysing the recorded acoustic data.
From the recorded acoustic data we can see (by using Pamguard software) that not only the tidal currents within the Eastern Scheldt are important for attracting prey for the porpoises around this hot spot, but also the day and night rhythm.
The general public loves to walk or cycle towards the pillar with the sound system on the jetty. So far, over 10,000 listening moments of 5 minutes have been recorded on the counter, meaning that during reasonable weather and at daytime about 42% of the time one or more persons are listing to the sound of the hydrophone.
This unique combination of science and recreation has often been a topic for the media. National television, radio, newspapers, magazines and many websites presented the footage and sounds of Studio Porpoise. It has also been described in the IWC Handbook.
We know that about 50 to 60 harbour porpoises are living in the Eastern Scheldt, situated in the South-Western Delta of the Netherlands. The former estuary of the Eastern Scheldt is semi-closed by a storm surge barrier. The barrier contains gates of about 50 m wide and are sometimes over 50 meter deep. Due to the strong currents and noise made by the rubbing currents, the porpoises stay away from the barrier. Only during the change of tide, they come close by. We identified five so-called “porpoise hot spots” in this tidal bay.
The Rugvin foundation performed many studies on porpoises in the Eastern Scheldt since 2009, like the Harbour porpoise Photo ID project. Due to this, it is known that nearby the jetty of Zierikzee, porpoises are often spotted. This porpoise hot spot is one of the best and most easily accessible places to spot porpoises in the Netherlands and Europe! For this reason, Studio Porpoise (Studio Bruinvis) has been placed here in 2017.
The access to this jetty has improved over the last years due to the creation of cycling and walking paths, and several benches have been placed so visitors can have a seat. It is the ideal spot to watch “our Dutch whale”.
The Rugvin foundation established Studio Porpoise together with its partners: the World Wide Fund for Nature, National Park Eastern Scheldt, Natuurmonumenten, and the Municipality of Schouwen-Duiveland. In October 2016 Studio Porpoise was put into use.