Whale tracking underwater: high frequency acoustic pingers and the instrumented tag (DTAG)


Since 2004, scientists have been tagging and tracking humpback whales in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to better understand their behavior. Stellwagen Bank is a shoal area east of Boston and north of Cape Cod, MA where many species of baleen whale feed during the summer months. Instrumented tags (DTAGs) are suction‐cupped to the whales back from a RHIB. DTAGS, developed at WHOI, record whale pitch, roll, and heading, 3‐D acceleration, depth, and sound for up to 20 h. A pseudotrack for the tagged whale can be generated using visual fixes at the surface and dead‐reckoning while the whale is underwater. During extended dives, the solution is expected to exhibit substantial drift, placing limits on the ability to understand feeding behavior, mother‐calf interactions, etc. In order to develop higher accuracy whale tracks, three GPS‐positioned high‐frequency (25–32 kHz) acoustic pingers were deployed around tagged animals in July 2007. The pingers produce time‐encoded pulses from known positions, which are recorded along with whale vocalizations and ambient noise on the whale tag. Pulse arrival times from each pinger are converted into ranges from the known pinger locations to generate an underwater whale track. Results from this work will be presented.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America


122, Issue 5




Acoustical Society of America

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article