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Research into Whale Acoustics

You have probably heard that whales sing. What you might not have heard is that the songs they sing are composed - much like classical music is composed - and that the songs change every year. Whales of many species sing, and each species has it's own rules of composition.

For example, all of the humpback whales in a winter breeding area will sing the same song, and it will change subtly over the season. When they return the following year from their summer feeding area, they pick up the exact same variant that was sung at the end of the previous winter. Researchers have also identified that those humpback whales that winter in Hawaii have different songs than those that winter in Tonga or those in Bermuda. In all cases, however, the local variant of the groups' songs always evolve along the same lines; they always stay 'frozen' over the summers; and they always pick up exactly where they left off at the end of the previous winter.

As another example, killer whales that reside in the waters surrounding Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, live and travel in matrilineal pods. Each pod has its own 'dialect' of sounds, that is unique to that pod. Furthermore, the degree to which one pod's dialect is similar to another's is in direct proportion to how closely related the 2 pods are. In other words, greater differences in dialects indicate greater lengths of time since the two pods shared a common mother.

These observations are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many clues that indicate whales have very complex social structures, and there is much to learn about these vocalizations.
acoustic research

acoustic research Consider the fact that whales have a huge frequency range over which they vocalize. The higher frequencies, including rapid clicks, are used for echolocation - using their natural form of active sonar to hunt and to 'see' their underwater surroundings. The lower frequencies - as low as 5 Hz - can travel great distances under water. There has been speculation that whales, using these low frequencies, can communicate with other whales on the other side of the planet!

There are no words which can describe how beautiful these creatures' sounds are. The easiest way to understand their world is to simply listen to humpback whales...

However, the effects of man's increasing use of motorized vessels has added a tremendous amount of background noise, over which the whales must compete in order to use their acoustic abilities. Consider how difficult your life would be if air pollution made seeing in everyday life as difficult as in the densest of fog. Sound is to whales as sight is to humans, and the increasing noise pollution in the world's oceans is making it more and more difficult for them to live the life that we, at ANON, believe they are entitled.

To help understand the degree to which sound is encroaching upon the whales, we have undertaken a program of installing underwater microphones (hydrophones) which are connected to radio and satellite transmitters. Through our network of hydrophones, we can research the vocalizations as well as track the increase in background noise with which the whales must contend.
acoustic research

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