Wi-fi oceans to wash whale sounds over Dunedin

Caro McCaw, of Otago Polytechnic, listens to the recorded sounds of whales at an exhibition in Dunedin.
HAMISH MCNEILLY/STUFF

Caro McCaw, of Otago Polytechnic, listens to the recorded sounds of whales at an exhibition in Dunedin.

The sounds of whales and other marine mammals can be heard around Dunedin courtesy of a "wi-fi ocean".

Two interactive exhibitions in the city are using wi-fi enabled umbrellas to convey a message about the effect noise pollution has on Otago's marine life.

Visitors will hear different marine life, such as pilot whales and Hector's dolphins, as they walk under the Sounding exhibition's umbrellas.

Other adapted umbrellas will be able to be taken outside, and will respond to three city's wi-fi spots by emitting the sounds of marine life.

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"We are bringing the sounds of the marine space into an urban environment," Otago Polytechnic communication design academic leader associate professor Caro McCaw said.

"I am interesting in trying to understand landscapes that aren't visual . . . so we've created a social sonic experience where you have to use your ears to understand things, and to empathise with the whales."

There was also an environmental message to be shared, with oil and gas exploration in some areas of New Zealand impacting on marine life, McCaw said.

It contrasted with early settlers complaining about the sounds of southern right whales in the harbour.

University of Otago whale researcher Professor Liz Slooten assisted the exhibition, along with artist Katrina Thomson, West Coast artist Vicki Smith, sound artist Leyton Glen and Taranaki Internet-of-things enthusiast Andrew Hornblow.

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The project was made possible by Urban Dream Brokerage, the GigCity Community Fund from Chorus, Creative New Zealand, Dunedin City Council, Otago Museum, and Otago Polytechnic.

The exhibition at 165 George St will be open to the public from September 22 to October 15, between 11am and 5pm.

 - Stuff

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