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Blog Posted in avatar   Johnny Summerton's Blog

The sad tale of the lonely whale singing a song that cannot be heard

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By Johnny Summerton
Posted Mar 3, 2011 in Science
So you think you've got it tough?
Spare a thought for what researchers have nicknamed "The 52 Hertz" whale.
It's a baleen whale, apparently, that has been swimming around in the ocean for over two decades all by herself - or himself according to some reports on the Net - nobody really seems sure.
What is certain is that the whale is alone, singing at a different frequency which means, writes Jesus Diaz on the technology weblog Gizmodo that, "No other whales can hear her. Every one of her desperate calls to communicate remains unanswered. Each cry ignored."
Yes there might be a fair bit anthropomorphising going on in the way Diaz tells the tale but that certainly doesn't lessen its impact.
In 2004 the New York Times took a look at the plight of the whale, revealing that the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had been tracking it since 1992 with "a classified array of hydrophones used by the (US) Navy to monitor enemy submarines."
Scientists had no single explanation as to why the whale made a different sound but rather, "A host of them," wrote Andrew Revkin in the paper.
"Among them that the animal is malformed or, most likely, is a hybrid of a blue whale and another species."
Eight years down the line and still nobody seems to know why the whale is out of synch with those around it.
All that's certain is that it's out there all by itself, "Seeing other creatures around her but unable to communicate with any of them," writes Diaz.
The whale doesn't just sing differently, it also follows a completely different migration route according to the sustainability website TreeHugger.
"It fails to travel along any known migration route of any baleen whale species - so other whales can't hear it, and they don't run into it along migration paths," writes Jaymi Heimbuch
It can't be seen and it can't be heard - apart, that is by researchers. And that's the way it looks set to spend the rest of its life.
You can hear an accelerated version of the 52 Hertz whale’s song for yourself here.

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