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Dolphin Realtime


This seven-minute recording showcases a dramatic interaction that ebbed and flowed over three days and nights in September of 2001. The Pacific white sided dolphins you hear crackling, clicking, and whistling were members of a pod of about 300 animals that had gathered in Queen Charlotte Strait, off the northern tip of Vancouver Island to feed on the vast candlefish schools of late summer.

The guitarist is Jim Nollman, working on the research vessel, Shelmar and filmed by videographer Bob Wood. During the long days of the unfolding event, the dolphins were constantly accompanied by three humpback whales, plus a band of Stellar sea lions that occasionally drew near the boat to listen to the interaction.

This recording has been slightly edited to include the best of several individual sessions that, all together, totaled over 8 hours. We also did a bit of crossfading, EQ and gain balancing to make this excerpt sound like a contiguous whole. A slight amount of noise reduction eliminated the overbearing hiss of current, although it does add a subtle "flange" effect to some of the water sounds that remain.

Besides these subtle adjustments, the recording you hear remains accurate to the realtime interaction that occurred. As the movie above demonstrates, members of the large herd vocalized directly at the underwater speaker and hydrophone. Such close proximity to the hydrophone allowed us to record dolphin replies to the guitar music with unprecedented detail and variation.

The movie on Nollman's facebook page provides visual context. That's Nollman on the boat stern, at the moment he first feels he's made a musical connection. The spoken line "I think I've got one" is all you hear from this movie. The 7 minute piece is transmitting here from the audio player. The guitar enters at about 40 seconds into the audio. If you listen to the whole thing, pay attention to the melodic interaction. It may surprise you.




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