WHALES: Blue Echolocation

The voice of the Blue Whale is the loudest and deepest animal call on Earth. We’re listening to that call right now, speeded up 10 times, to place the sound within the range of human hearing. Blue Whales begin migrating south this month, and scientists believe that the whales may be using these calls to guide themselves through the ocean. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Chris Clark is the director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University.

“You can follow one whale as it moves from Newfoundland down to Bermuda and then down towards Florida. And one of the remarkable things that we’ve found when we looked at these acoustic tracks: the animals didn’t wander. They moved on a very determined straight line from place to place. How on earth does an animal do this? In the open ocean there are no visible cues that it can use. There aren’t signs out there saying, “This way to Bermuda.”, but ah hah! The voice of the Blue Whale is so loud that it can actually echo off the Continental Shelf, off the bottom of the ocean and off of sea melds. Large, reflective objects in its path. And just like dolphins and bats use echo-location sounds with fine precision but small scale over meters of tens of feet, the Blue Whale is doing this over hundreds of miles.”

“When the sound bounces back the whale can reconstruct an image in its mind based on how long the sound takes to go out, bounce off the island and come back.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

WHALES: Blue Echolocation

Scientists think that the loud songs of Blue Whales are being used as echolocation.
Air Date:10/14/1997
Scientist:
Transcript:

The voice of the Blue Whale is the loudest and deepest animal call on Earth. We're listening to that call right now, speeded up 10 times, to place the sound within the range of human hearing. Blue Whales begin migrating south this month, and scientists believe that the whales may be using these calls to guide themselves through the ocean. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Chris Clark is the director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University.

"You can follow one whale as it moves from Newfoundland down to Bermuda and then down towards Florida. And one of the remarkable things that we've found when we looked at these acoustic tracks: the animals didn't wander. They moved on a very determined straight line from place to place. How on earth does an animal do this? In the open ocean there are no visible cues that it can use. There aren't signs out there saying, "This way to Bermuda.", but ah hah! The voice of the Blue Whale is so loud that it can actually echo off the Continental Shelf, off the bottom of the ocean and off of sea melds. Large, reflective objects in its path. And just like dolphins and bats use echo-location sounds with fine precision but small scale over meters of tens of feet, the Blue Whale is doing this over hundreds of miles."

"When the sound bounces back the whale can reconstruct an image in its mind based on how long the sound takes to go out, bounce off the island and come back."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.