Lime Kiln Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of SMRU Consulting.


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Radio Rewind is a random “pop-up” series that looks back at a Hitchhiker Station (a strange radio station) from the past. As last month’s post was 2 years since my last “Rewind”, I’m making up for it by posting another.

The historic lighthouse in Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of San Juan Island in Washington State is an impressive sight. But the 200,000 people who visit every year mainly go to see killer whales, gray whales, sea lions, and porpoises swimming along the shoreline. The Park claims to be “one of the best whale-watching spots on earth.” So much so, it’s nicknamed “Whale Watch Park”.

One reason why it’s such an ideal location for whale watching is because the ocean floor drops to 960 feet just a mere 25 feet off shore. This gives the whales plenty of room, yet at the same time, puts them very close to the shore resulting in ideal whale watching. The area is also rich in cod and salmon which the whales feed on.

Besides being a killer whale research hub, the site also includes a hydrophone node (an underwater microphone). The sounds from the microphone are streamed live, 24/7, over the Lime Kiln Hydrophone Internet station. Yes, this is an Internet radio station that plays nothing but sounds from an underwater microphone. No hits, none of the time.

Submerged in twenty-three feet of water southwest of the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, the hydrophone was installed 8 years ago and is maintained by The Whale Museum and SMRU (Sea Mammal Research Unit). Tune in and at any given time you’ll hear what sounds like either water running furiously in a bathtub or white noise (it’s very low 32 kbps streaming bit rate doesn’t help). However, the sub-aquatic stereo microphone has, on occasion, picked up whale calls and sounds of Orcas crunching fish bones. Yum.

“Yes, this is an Internet radio station that plays nothing but sounds from an underwater microphone.”

Lime Kiln was recently “off the air” for a week due to Internet equipment failures, but they fixed the problems and it’s back on. Those of you who need your underwater fix can rejoice again.

If you want to get closer to nature, or you would like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade, tune Lime Kiln Hydrophone…a Hitchhiker Station that’s underwater.

Trivia (from One of the first known lighthouses was also the greatest and most famous of all lighthouses. It was built in 285 BC at Alexandria, Egypt, on an island at the entrance to the city’s harbor. This lighthouse, called the Pharos of Alexandria, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was over 440 ft tall and stood for 1500 years, until it was destroyed by an earthquake.”