During the International Polar Year (IPY), acoustic recorders were deployed on oceanographic moorings in Fram Strait and on the Chukchi Plateau, representing the first coordinated year-round sampling of underwater acoustic habitats at two sites in the High Arctic. Examination of species-specific marine mammal calls recorded from autumn 2008–2009 revealed distinctly different acoustic habitats at each site. Overall, the Fram Strait site was acoustically complex compared with the Chukchi Plateau site. In Fram Strait, calls from bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) and a variety of toothed whales (odontocetes) were recorded year-round, as were airgun pulses from seismic surveys. In addition, calls from blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and fin whales (B. physalus) were recorded from June to October and August to March, respectively. Conversely, at the Chukchi Plateau site, beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and bowhead whale calls were recorded primarily from May to August, with airgun signals detected only in September–October. Ribbon seal (Phoca fasciata) calls were detected in October–November, with no marine mammals calls at all recorded from December to February. Of note, ice-adapted bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) were recorded at both sites, primarily in spring and summer, corresponding with the mating season for that species. Differences in acoustic habitats between the two sites were related to contrasts in sea ice cover, temperature, patterns of ocean circulation and contributions from anthropogenic noise sources. These data provide a provisional baseline for the comparison of underwater acoustic habitats between Pacific and Atlantic sectors of the High Arctic.
Marine mammals Acoustics Seismic surveys International Polar Year