I have been listening every morning these last few days to recorded songs of various whales and dolphins through The Swiss Cetacean Society app from iTunes, and some sound like parakeets, or elephants, a herd of cattle, or zippers opening and closing. The largest mammal, the blue whale, sounds like wind blowing through a forest where macaws are calling to each other. The humpback whale has an early Cyndi Lauper range, belted notes followed by soprano whistles. The common porpoise could just as easily be a collection of caged songbirds passed at a Mexican market. The boing-badoing-doing sound the Minke whale sings is a futuristic machine sound from an old episode of The Avengers, I am nearly certain.
The bottlenose dolphin does not really sound like Flipper did, laughing at the motherless boys, but rather like a group of people struggling to lift something out of the water while a plastic toy motorboat drives by. Play the song of the Bowhead whale at your next Halloween party, and your guests will jump out of their seats. I am listening to songs of these marine mammals as I wonder where my songs might lead me, like the sonar mapping that the blues tunes accomplish, and whether to renew the web address for this blog. I am amazed at all the individual special voices among the cetaceans. The Beluga whale is known as sea canary for the chirping songs they sing as they surface to feed, yet the Great Killer Whale is more mellifluous.
I heard the humpbacks singing in the Pacific off Maui several years ago when I went snorkeling near a crater, yet I did not know that I had until I was chatting with a couple at the baggage carousel back at JFK. I described this weird sound that was close to the way the adults spoke on the Charlie Brown cartoons on TV. That was one of the humpbacks I had seen frolicking when I was on the boat trip. It bothers me that I didn’t even know that I was being sung to. Biologists don’t even know why the humpback sings, and I don’t know why they have to believe it is any different than why we do.