Small Talk

The Lonely Whale: No Myth

On our last episode, “Swamplandia!” author Karen Russell told us about a lonely whale with vocal problems whose love song supposedly chases lady whales away. Neither we nor Karen could verify the story’s authenticity at the time… but it turns out it’s true (sort of)(sadly).

According to a New York Times article from 2004, scientists have been sonically tracking the whale since 1992 due to its strange song. Nicknamed “The 52 Hertz Whale,” the creature sings at such a high frequency that other whales apparently don’t respond to it. Not just female whales — *any* whales. So it’s been moping around the ocean for years, all by itself. Says researcher Kate Stafford of The National Marine Mammal Lab: “He’s saying, ‘Hey I’m out here.’ Well, nobody is phoning home.”

Here’s another article about the lonely misfit whale. Apparently not only is its song indecipherable to other whales, it also doesn’t follow the typical migration pattern of its species, making it even *less* likely to make any buddies. The good news for science, though, is that because this one whale’s song is totally different than any other whale’s, it’s easy to track it and hear how its voice changes over time. So now we know, for instance, that a whale’s voice gets deeper as it ages. Fat lot of good that does for the sad, sad whale, though, who would probably give anything for just one hug. 🙁
(Thanks to listener Ron Strelecki for the research)