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diagram of whale larynx

February 27, 2024


Guests joining us on our 8AM Wake up with the Whales Cruise on Monday got a chance to watch 5 different pods of Humpbacks. We spent most of the cruise getting to know a Mom/Baby/Escort pod. Baby seemed interested in us too — we saw him attempt to spy hop at least 5 different times. The other pods of Humpbacks played their version of “Whack-A-Mole” with us. We’d be watching a pod for awhile and then they’d disappear, so we’d head over to another pod. Of course, just after arriving to the 100 yard mark to watch the next pod, the first pod would breach! And that happened more than once — it was kind of frustrating but also kind of funny. We got to see 7 different breaches, but all of them were about 500 yards from us.

Guests on our Late-Morning Whale Watch Cruise got some great views of a curious Mom Humpback and her calf who approached the boat on several occasions. We also saw a lot of breaching and tail lobbing from other Humpbacks about 1/2 mile from us, and some 100 yard views of a different Mom/Calf/Escort pod. When we had a moment to deploy the hydrophone, we heard some very loud and clear vocalizations (for some new information about Humpback vocalization dynamics, see today’s Fact of the Day).



Ocean Sports Whale Fact of the Day: When we deploy our hydrophone (or put our heads below water) during the wintertime, we’re always fascinated by the sounds we hear the Humpbacks making. We know they don’t produce sounds the way humans do — in order to sing or talk, we pass air over our vocal cords. If we could do this underwater, bubbles would rise from our mouths to the surface. When our Humpbacks vocalize, no bubbles rise to the surface, and in fact, Humpbacks don’t have vocal cords like we do — so how do they produce those haunting sounds? Recently researchers at the University of Southern Denmark experimenting on deceased beached Sei, Minke and Humpback whales took a look in these whales’ larynxes and found a U-shaped tissue and a large “cushion” of fat and muscle not found in other animals. They found that when they blew air across the fatty U-shaped folds, it pushed those folds against the fat and muscle cushion, creating vibrations that actually matched the sounds that the living whales make in the wild. So…that’s HOW the whales sing, but exactly WHY they sing is still under investigation.