Humpback Whale Songs
The song of the humpback whale is a loud, complex series of sounds repeated over and over. It occurs primarily (although not exclusively) during the breeding season, is sung only by males, and its composition changes as it is being sung with all singers in a population singing the same version at any one time.
During their cooperative feeding maneuvers on the summer feeding grounds, humpbacks produce feeding sounds, or a “feeding call”, likened to the sound of a train whistle. Researchers believe this call either coordinates the movements of the whales or manipulates their prey.
Maui Mystery Sounds
Imagine hearing a heartbeat like sound in the ocean … but not knowing the source. Whale Trust researchers spent a decade listening for these sounds and wondering what they were. Finally, on a calm glassy day these sounds were recorded within a few meters of a pair of humpback whales. Even more convincing, the sounds increased in volume as the whales got closer and became softer as the whales swam away. This led to the publication of a new paper describing these so-called mystery sounds for the first time.
What Will I Hear?
When you listen to these sounds you will the background ‘noise’ of song and social sounds that are typical of any day in the winter. You will hear (and see on the spectrograph) that the pulse sounds stand apart from these ‘normal’ humpback sounds. You will high quality need headphones to hear the low frequency pulses.
Example 1 Recorded on February 12, 2005: Recorded off Maui near a competitive or surface-active group of 8 whales (usually comprised of one female and multiple males). During this encounter lasting 70 minutes, the low frequency pulses were present on 8 of 9 recording tracks.
Example 2 Recorded on March 8, 2013: Recorded over a 22-minute period while a pair of adult whales, a male and a female, circled around our research boat. The low frequency pulses were heard during the first 13 minutes of this recording; none were heard after that.