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Humpback whale songs fill the oceans of the world. Only the male humpback whale sings songs. His appearance may be 'knobby' and his face encrusted with barnacles, but his songs are something from another world.

The first humpback whale songs were heard by early mariners as they travelled in the tropical seas. Imagine being awakened by a haunting howl while sailing in the middle of the ocean! These disembodied melodies were even more spooky since came right through the hulls of their wooden boats.

Today, we know these 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.

In any given breeding ground, there's an almost infinite variety of timbre, volume and frequencies to be heard. All of the males in the area sing the same tune. Small variations sometimes occur which are picked up by the other males allowing the melodies to evolve over many years into new tunes.

There are many popular holiday destinations where you can hear these sounds for yourself. Check out our whale watching directory for further details.

The major tropical destinations are:

In the southern hemisphere:

All of these locations provide warm breeding grounds and calm seas that are ideal for mating and birthing. In the northern hemisphere, the 'highways' run northwards towards the Arctic and in the southern hemisphere they run southward towards the Antarctic.

There are probably more 'destinations' than we indicate here since these whales range the entire Ocean basin. Interestingly, though, the Southern and Northern whale populations never mix - because they are never near the equator at the same time. The northern winter is December through March, while winter in the southern hemisphere is between June and September. So while one group is near the equator at their calving and breeding grounds, the other is near the pole feeding during the long summer nights at the high latitudes.

In any given breeding ground, there's an almost infinite variety of timbre, volume and frequencies to be heard. All of the males in the area sing the same melody. Small variations sometimes occur which are picked up by the other males allowing the melodies to evolve over many years into new tunes.

HUMPBACK WHALE SONGS