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Sound Waves LPR
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WHOI Sea Grant's Low Power Radio Project: Sound Waves 1620 AM

Pilot Project Overview

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Sea Grant Program is conducting a pilot project to broadcast educational information about the Cape and Islands to visitors traveling to Martha's Vineyard from the Steamship Authority's ferry in Woods Hole via Low Power Radio (LPR). Because auto passengers traveling on the frequent ferries to Martha's Vineyard represent a potentially captive audience with a means for tuning into AM radio, this low-cost and non-regulated communications tool offers a unique opportunity to reach a broad audience with relatively modest effort.

Messages included in the "Sounds Waves" broadcasts will cover a variety of topics related to the Cape and Islands marine environment. These include: the marine scientific history and discoveries of Woods Hole, points of interest along the ferry route, Steamship Authority vessel statistics and facts, general points of interest about the region, seasonal information, and recreational opportunities.

In between the informational loops, "Sound Waves" will broadcast NOAA Weather Radio. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts, in addition to "breaking up" the broadcast loops, will be useful to ferry travelers, local boaters, fishermen, and shellfishermen.

WHOI Sea Grant's partners in this pilot project are the Steamship Authority and Cape & Islands Community Public Radio (WCAI 90.1 FM, Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard and WNAN 91.1 FM, Nantucket).

In addtion, WHOI Sea Grant has worked with many local organizations to bring "Sound Waves" to the airwaves. These groups include: the Woods Hole Community Association, U.S. Coast Guard Station Woods Hole, Woods Hole Business Association, Woods Hole Library, Woods Hole Historical Collection, the Marine Biological Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Sevice (NEFSC), U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Research Center, Sea Education Association, and the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce.

Some particulars about our project:

  • The LPR unit being used for this project is a Travelers Information Station, purchased from Information Systems Specialists in Zeeland, MI, (616) 772-2300. The unit consists of a digital voice recorder and an AM transmitter system. Additional options purchased for this project include: 14.3 minutes of message time, remote access/recording, and a NOAA weather radio receiver. The unit is stored in the cupola of a WHOI-owned building located approximately 500 yards fromthe Steamship Authority parking area, well within the 0.5-mile broadcast range capabilities of the LPR unit.
  • Two signs, 24" x 18" in size, have been posted in the ferry parking/staging areas for autos with reservations. These signs, alerting vehicle passengers with ferry reservations to the availability of Cape and Islands information, read: "Sound Waves: Cape & Islands Info. Tune your radio to 1620 AM," were constructed by Locust Street Signs in Falmouth, MA, (508) 457-1777.
  • A brochure describing the LPR project is available in the Steamship Authority's Woods Hole terminal and at local businesses throughout Woods Hole. Copies are also available from the WHOI Sea Grant Program, (508) 289-2665 or

Our Target Audience: Ferry Vehicle Passengers

With the high volume of auto traffic that travels on the Steamship Authority's Woods Hole-Martha's Vineyard ferries each year (375,000 cars and 65,000 trucks), a well-documented potential audience for this LPR pilot project exists. Ferries run from as early at 5:40 a.m. to as late as 11:45 p.m., although when the occasional guaranteed standby policy is in effect, boats will run as late as 2:00 a.m. Autos with reservations spend anywhere from 1 - 6 hours waiting for their ferry, though the average "staging" time is approximately 2 hours.

These statistics clearly illustrate the availability of potential listeners for our LPR project. We anticipate that the listenership will depend on several factors, including weather, time of day, length of waiting time, age of passengers, type of passenger (i.e., tourist vs. resident), and familiarity with region, among other factors.

According to the Steamship Authority, 70% of auto passengers are "transients," meaning they visit Martha's Vineyard--via the ferry--once per year. Twenty percent are classified as passengers who make "multiple visits" via the ferry each year, and 10% are Vineyard residents. For the most part, messages in our pilot project will be geared to the transients, although many of the facts and topics will be of interest to residents and frequent visitors.

We will conduct a survey after the pilot project has been up and running for a few months. This survey will be conducted in persion and will query auto passengers about their opinions on the LPR broadcasts.

If you have heard the "Sounds Waves" broadcast and would like to participate in our survey, please contact the WHOI Sea Grant office at (508) 289-2665 or e-mail us:


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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Sea Grant Program
193 Oyster Pond Road, MS #2, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1525