The Northeast Gateway is located approximately 13 nautical miles south southeast of Gloucester, Mass., and 1.8 nautical miles from the western border of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (which is managed by NOAA).
Since the route to the LNG terminal takes vessels through prime whale habitat, researchers and regulators from the sanctuary and NOAA Fisheries worked with the Ports licensing agencies (the US Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration) and Excelerate Energy to develop a plan to keep whales and LNG ships out of each others way in Massachusetts Bay.
Excelerate Energy then entered into a partnership with the Cornell Lab and WHOI to develop the remote auto-detection system. To further reduce the operational risk of ship strikes, Excelerate Energy has trained its crew members to watch for marine mammals and sea turtles as their vessels travel to and from the port.
Each auto-detection buoy is instrumented with an underwater microphoneor hydrophoneto carry underwater sounds to the surface via specially designed cable that WHOI technicians playfully call it the Gumby hose. The stretchy, hose-like cable has data-conducting wires woven into its walls.
More importantly, the Gumby hose can stretch to at least twice its normal length, a special mooring design created at WHOI to overcome harsh sea states and keep the buoy above water. In typical winter storm conditions in the North Atlantic, wave heights in coastal waters can swell to 10 meters (33 feet), putting dangerous strain on traditional mooring lines and creating excessive noise that would make whale detection nearly impossible.
Data from the hydrophones are relayed through the Gumby hose to customized computers on the surface buoy, which continuously analyze underwater sounds to detect possible right whale calls. Every 20 minutes, these acoustic detections are sent by cellular or satellite phon
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution