Photo: whale speckles in Namibia. Schoo Fleming

Whale Song Synchronicity

Learning how to decode the language of whales

Whale songs follow recognisable patterns – much like human language. As a result, Scientist Roger Payne and researcher Scott McVay have been able to create a form of notation from the sonographs of the underwater tunes, in turn highlighting the reoccurring sounds and rhythms of the whale calls. Further research has uncovered rhymes and even different whale dialects.
Photo: sonograph interpretation. Roger Payne and Scott McVay
Photo: whale notation. Mike Deal and David Rothenburg

Whale song was first uncovered during the Cold War when the military used microphones underwater to track submarines and sonar communication. This initial discovery of the underwater symphonies was said to power the first wave of anti-whaling legislation in 1986. Today’s campaigners report pressure for whaling to return, and hope the new visualisations by musician and philosopher David Rothenberg and graphic visualiser Mike Deal will raise awareness of the threats faced to these majestic and musical creatures.