Whale songs fill the oceans of the world. All whales make sounds. But only a few can be classified as whale songs with varying melodies and complex structures. The most famous ones are humpback whale songs. Only males sing. His appearance may be 'knobby' and his face encrusted with barnacles, but his voice is something from another world. And, you can hear it by clicking on whale songs in the menu on the left side of this page.
The Humpback goes on a year long migration from the polar regions in the summer to warm tropical waters in the winter. The long summer months are times of feasting in the food rich polar oceans. It's an important time - they must fatten themselves up for the long journey ahead.
As the summer sun fades, humpbacks migrate thousands of miles toward the equator to reach their winter breeding grounds. They choose warm tropical waters to teach their new born calves how to survive in their water world. And, it's here that we can easily hear whale songs fill the surrounding coasts. If you were swimming close to a singing humpback, your whole body would vibrate from the sound of their songs. Their 'voices' are very loud! Most of the time though, you will need help from a small hydrophone, or underwater microphone, to hear it properly.
The first whale songs were heard by mariners as they travelled in the tropical seas. Imagine being awakened by a haunting howl while sailing in the middle of the ocean! These sounds were even more spooky since came right through the hulls of their wooden boats.
Today, we know these sounds aren't from ghosts of drowned sailors. They are one of the most interesting aspects of whale watching. A humpback comes to the surface, takes many deep breaths, then dives a few feet underwater where he is hidden from view. With head pointed down slightly, he remains absolutely still as he begins to sing. Humpback songs are very complex tunes. They last for up to 30 minutes without stopping, and they are well constructed. Within a particular locality, they are nearly identical - all of the males sing the same basic tune with few variations.
As we mentioned earlier, only males sing! It appears they do this to soothe and comfort females and calves. The whale songs change slightly from year to year. Researchers who listen to these songs find that it takes about 5 years for the melody to change.
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