The fish eating killer whales or orcas, Orcinus Orca, that are the focus of this project live in the coastal waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. They live in the most stable groups documented among mammals, and communicate using a variety of vocalizations including echolocation clicks, tonal whistles, and pulsed calls (Ford et al., 2000).

Our Local Orca Community

The Northern Resident Community consists of more than 200 individually known orcas in three acoustic clans. It is regularly found in the study area of the Johnstone Strait and the adjacent waters off Vancouver Island, British Columbia, from July to October.

Recording the Orca Songs

The goal of the Orchive project is to digitize acoustic data that have been collected over a period of 36 years. The acoustic data have been recorded using a variety of analog media at the research station OrcaLab (http://www.orcalab.org) , located on Hanson Island which is located centrally in the study area.

Accessing and Retrieving the Recordings

Currently we have approximately 20000 hours of analog recordings mostly in high quality audio cassettes. In addition to the digitization effort which is underway we are developing algorithms and software tools to facilitate access and retrieval to this large audio collection.

The size of this collection makes access and retrieval especially challenging (for example it would take approximately 2.2 years of continuous listening to cover the entire archive). Therefore the developed algorithms and tools are essential for effective long term studies employing acoustic techniques.

Providing Us with Feedback

This project is just beginning but we believe it provides many opportunities and challenges related to large scale semantic access in a non-typical application scenario. We invite other researchers in information access and retrieval to provide feedback to us regarding this project. Please email us at: sness@sness.net.

Looking Forward

Finally, we hope that in the future researchers from around the world will be able to access this repository and use the tools to improve understanding of acoustic communication of orcas. The people involved in the project are all volunteers and the software developed is open source.

We welcome help and contributions from any interested parties.