Humpback Whales’ Songs: a SIMRES SeaTalk

We got a treat on Saturday 16th September when Dr. Jim Darling filled the Community Hall to entertain and inform us about the vocalizations of the humpback whale. Jim has studied these amazing creatures and their fascinating songs for many decades, both in Tofino, BC and in Maui, Hawaii. We listened to whale songs that are complex, repetitive, structured in phrases and shared amongst the males. The females don’t sing. Jim and his associates have listened to humpbacks across the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Philippines, down to Australia and Polynesia, even in the Atlantic, from Brazil to Africa. We learned how the whale songs across vast oceans are shared and essentially the same at any one time and that they all gradually change, simultaneously, an astounding feat.

Jim has asked questions of himself and his colleague over the years, such as why they sing, where and when they sing, even when they mate, yet without finding definitive answers. Nevertheless, he persists in his quest. He understands that these whales have large brains, much larger than ours, and that the hearing portion of their brain is very complex. Whether their songs may eventually be understood fully and result in whale-human conversations is a tantalizing, speculative notion. Jim Darling will continue to listen to these enormous, elusive creatures, seeking answers and communicating, with wit and wisdom, his wondrous enthusiasms to all of us. Thank you Jim for sharing your passion and thank you Saturna for listening.

Our next SeaTalk will be on Saturday, October 7, at 7:00 PM in the Community Hall. Come and hear Dr. Jon Willis, Astronomer, Astrobiologist and Author, talk about life aboard the exploration vessel Nautilus: 20,000 PINGS UNDER THE SEA.

Reporting by Tony Green. Photos from Dr. Jim Darling, and SIMRES board members

SEATALKS | Saturna Environmental Awareness Talks presented by Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society | SIMRES