A Conversation With Whales

They surrounded the divers and started clicking — they seemed to be saying hello. Read and then take a swim with whales in a virtual reality feature.

Comments: 117

  1. Curious as to why the NYTimes needs us to have them text the link to this?

  2. Texting the link to yourself is just for convenience. Alternatively, go to your app store and search for "NYT VR".

  3. What a beautiful, touching story. Why would we ever think that intelligence and language, like every other aspect of biology, aren't a continuum and adapted to the animal's environment?! Human arrogance, maybe?
    Thank you NYT for this report, enough to reflect upon for a lifetime.

  4. Yes, indeed! For a full exploration of the intelligence of animals, please consider reading, "Beyond Words": What Animals Think and Feel," by Carl Safina.

    I'm in the middle of it right now and as much as this subject has always fascinated me, and have read many books and articles and web sites on it, this book has not only opened my mind to stunning new revelations but has blown it wide open.

    It is without exaggeration the best, most comprehensive and most beautifully and humane book I've ever read on this amazing subject. The author is a god.

  5. Awesome - the idea of a conversation with these beautiful creatures. If only humankind would be willing to listen - and learn from them.

  6. Don't really fit in with my species. Don't understand. Don't understand why our own species' numbers are never questioned by the media. Don't understand if it's just greed and ego. Don't understand how we, as responsible, can watch as the 6th Mass Extinction is underway. Don't understand that. Don't understand people of religion exterminating their own god's creations. And don't understand those same people that spoil their god's nest here, believing they could conceivably get their nest in the sky. Don't understand.

  7. What a brilliant, deep comment. I don't understand, either. Just don't understand.

  8. You're not alone.

  9. How can the film be watched on a desktop?

  10. Click on the VRSE link in the last line.

  11. Looks like this app can't be installed on a desktop...

  12. You may have already received this suggestion from many others, but what about having native speakers of the South African click languages listen to the whale recordings? Their ears may detect nuances or patterns not apparent to the rest of us.

  13. Thank you for engaging in this lovely activity and gift to us.

  14. I believe whales are smarter than humans. They are saying, "Why aren't you people doing something about climate change? Ocean acidification is destroying the seas and the food we (the whales) eat....soon it will be the food you (humans) eat that disappears. Do something now before it's too late."

  15. Beautiful reminder that all non-human animals have language and their own culture, and they all communicate. We are slowly starting to pay attention, as evidenced by SeaWorld being forced to shut down it's cruel captive breeding program and ridiculous whale shows.

  16. This was the 1st thing I read this morning. It is a love letter to you. I have noticed that the birds completely know when a human approaches and they get away. Fast. What makes one think that whales don't recognize human things like submarines and robots and scuba gear? They don't have to get away fast but they still get away. Or they eat you. These are sentient creatures. Perhaps humans are not so sentient or aware as they like to think... Keep up the good work!

  17. We had an interesting experience in the New Mexican in a wilderness area where humans are infrequent visitors. When people do venture in they come on foot and in very small groups. The birds didn't recognize us as a potential threat, so they didn't keep their distance in the way birds in the more populated areas do. There was quite a noticeable difference. We know a mountain lion probably watched us, judging by the fresh prints near the water, but she kept her distance.

  18. Many vertebrates have sophisticated "secondary" vocal abilities. Bird song is the best known example. Cetacean clicks or songs is another. Human speech is another. All involve very similar neurological mechanisms -- basically two descending vocal control pathways in the brain rather than one. Yet, it is unlikely that bird song or cetacean clicks are "language" -- i.e. "verbal" communication. There is something about speech which gives rise to verbality which is not true of bird song or cetacean clicks.

  19. How do you KNOW it is not true of cetacean clicks? Assumptions can be dangerous things.

  20. Why is this "Opinion"? Interesting reporting! I hope there is some follow up reporting on whether there is any success with understanding whale communications.

  21. This is beautiful!

    We are only just discovering the communication and language used by other species. I believe this also includes trees and plants.

    I'm currently writing a novel about the way plant communication impacts humans and how listening to them can lead us out of our seemingly imminent climate change crisis.

    Maybe it's not a fiction after all? We'll see...

  22. A sobering, necessary, and timely reminder that there are other minds on this planet besides our own.

  23. Another example of your point is the Arctic's Bowhead whales. They like beyond 200 years. IMAGINE. Wouldn't we love to converse with them?

  24. Thank you, James, for this insightful article. I sampled freediving with a French boat captain and freediving master in the Maldives two summers ago, and it was one of the most peaceful and meditative activities I've ever experienced. What was most fascinating was how I could change the amount of oxygen I used by changing my thoughts. The more serene my thoughts, the longer I could hold my breath and stay underwater. I was tickled to be 60 feet below the surface, hanging out with the fish but with no cumbersome scuba apparatus. I don't know how serene I would be with a pod of whales nearby, but I do believe we are sadly ignorant to what we can learn about ourselves by engaging in freediving and associated activities that aren't necessarily dangerous at all.

  25. There weren't saying "hi," they were talking smack about the divers' ridiculous outfits.

  26. A wonderful and informative piece. I was moved. Thank you for your efforts.

  27. There is an etching by Goya showing people intently gazing at a squawking parrot. The title reads, "Perhaps the parrot is speaking on a medical subject."

  28. What an unbelievably great story to read in today's paper!

  29. Fantastic article! This is why I have boycotted all Japanese goods for the past decade. I believe that sonar is particularly damaging to our marine mammals and should be toned down.

  30. Maybe the Japanese should have a conversation with them.

  31. You mean instead of killing and eating them?

  32. I wonder if whales have an unconscious. Paging Dr. Freud!!

  33. We are one species ... "creatures." But while I would not expect the article to detract from this theme by bringing in darker matters, it is necessary to point and ought to be noted that the United States Navy's use of sonar is killing whales en masse. If this article has moved you to a sense of your fellowship with whales, you should "click" or cry out on their behalf.

  34. Perhaps if we truly listened to them--listened and heard them--we might grasp their pleas for humans to stop polluting the ocean with garbage, oil, radioactive leakage, etc., and to stop destroying the planet. We are not only killing ourselves off by not addressing climate change and global warming, but destroying these magnificent animals and their world as well. I pray we wake up and stop pursuing the path we're on. Soon. Very soon.

  35. I got shivers reading this. We humans dream of contacting a life form capable of communicating with us out there in the vast cosmos, when perhaps it has been with us all along, clicking beneath the water. There are plenty of us out here who don't think you guys are "crazy" or "nuts" at all. We're rooting for you.

  36. The author mentioned that overfishing, sonar, gill nets, pollution, are all decimating the seas of animal and plant life. By 2050, marine scientists say, the seas will be barren. 1 billion people eat fish to survive. We are approaching 8 billion people. Ideally, we humans should number 1.5-2 billion, according to population scientists, in order for other large animals---sperm whales, blue whales, lions, elephants, jaguars, etc, to survive. I love this article but I'm filled with dread that in my lifetime, these wonderful creatures will be gone.

  37. I'm sorry! The author of this article didn't mention the decimation of the seas by 2050. It's a prediction in a recent study....

    "The world's stocks of seafood will have collapsed by 2050 at present rates of destruction by fishing, scientists said yesterday.
    A four-year study of 7,800 marine species around the world's ecosystems has concluded that the long-term trend is clear and predictable."

  38. I have often wondered if perhaps diseases such as ebola, zika and others aren't natures way of thinning the human herd so as to allow the earth to evolve as its supposed to. It would seem to me that we might just want to not go forth and procreate quite so much and we might not witness the starvation from famines and the gut wrenching images of death through disease and other human caused calamities.

  39. Indeed. But what a horrible way to live and die. How much more humane would it be to prevent births, rather than a mother watch her children starve to death, or die from disease. We in the US are only (relatively small) 325 million. In China and India, 1.5 billion and growing. Sub-Saharan Africa is where the greatest population growth is...tribal religions prevent birth control. And there is the problem of trying to teach women how to use it. Yet China's "one-child rule" was considered inhumane. If you're a blue whale or a jaguar, one child for every human couple is compassion and love for the planet.

  40. This story of interacting quietly with the giant intelligent sperm whales left me full hearted with hope. Entering a new world humbly with respect and curiosity is the road less traveled. I felt both thrilled and soothed by the sense of awe and discovery brought to me by the thoughtful actions and words of this wonderful naturalist adventurer. In Moby Dick the descriptions are so clear of of the awful slaughter in particular the sperm whale. During those whaling days the whales were like the buffalo on the plains; ships could be trapped in vast herds of whales, to the horizon in all directions. The sea was carpeted in whales......imagine side by side, whales undulating as the waves rise and fall in all directions as far as the horizon in all directions.

  41. Thank you Mr. Nestor. It is frustrating not being able to see the film since I don't have or want a smart phone. Can NYT post a form that can be viewed on a computer?

  42. seriously, i already subscribe & pay good money every month, why should i have to download some stupid app to enjoy this?

  43. Yes, please, please. I use my cell phone for phone calls, and would love to see these images on my computer screen!!!! And to share with many other people. Keep in mind, millions of people have computers buty not necessarily the 4 gig data streaming on their phones. Share more, we learn more, good for the planet.

  44. EALidman, Think of it like this: the NYT is encouraging you to download an app that will give you access to a new medium for learning. It might be worthwhile for all of the 30 seconds or so it takes to download.

  45. What the whales are really saying is "Please save us."

  46. Just another reminder about how much mankind has missed in the world around us. Every species may not have all the assets of mankind, but are major entities unto themselves that we have frequently mauled and wasted. Strange the Times would introduce this work and then only make it available to mobil phone users.

  47. James Nestor writes (long quote), "Here’s the “crazy” part of his idea: DareWin is working with a team of engineers on a small submersible machine capable of recording more information about the coda clicks....sonar artifacts (like images) might be embedded in these vocalizations — that because these animals are already viewing their world through echoes, they may also be able to send these echoed images to one another. They’ll test the theory by capturing these clicks, sending them back to the animals, and seeing if they repeat them. Next, the researchers will create artificial clicks containing three-dimensional sonographic images of things in our world — a tree, a human — and send these as well, prompting, perhaps, a kind of dialogue."

    I read this and thought, this is not crazy, it is exciting. The idea that two very different species could understand each other's codes/patterns used to communicate, even if it starts with a whisper of insight, that would be quite a breakthrough.

  48. What a gift this was! I've just felt like I was 8 years old and getting the best birthday treat ever! My face hurts from all the grinning!
    Speechless but not clickless, many many thanks to the team that brought us this!

  49. What a beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing!

  50. Beautiful piece. Thank you.
    Not to completely denounce space research, but to think we have spent billions of dollars exploring the cosmos - SETI included, which hopes to find other intelligent life forms out there - when there untold intelligent life forms right here. Wrong priorities, IMO.
    Space is NOT the last frontier. At least not the one that matters most. Our own Earth has barely been explored or understood, even after millennia. And most of the blame is not on our puny intellects or technology. The greatest obstacle is our collective arrogance - that what goes on in our minds is all that counts.
    When I hear one study after another pointing out animals have minds/culture/feelings etc. all I can say is "this is news?"

  51. This freediving with sperm whales reminds me of Gregory Colbert's work, Ashes and Snow. I saw the one-hour sepia film and stills gallery in Venice, Italy in 2002. I believe it was also shown in NY City.
    I highly recommend it to anyone moved by this lovely article here.

  52. Of course it's a language. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they are trying to tell us to take care of their remaining numbers and quit stripping the Oceans of the paltry remnants of the other sea life. A conversation we sadly fail to hear or heed.

    Soon the day will come when Sharks and Tuna will disappear from not only our tables, but the Planet it's self.

  53. A great read. We can sometimes be so arrogant that many of us cannot see that there are living things on this planet that possess a beauty and intelligence we can barely comprehend. Whether it is the sperm whale or the African or Indian elephant, this planet is inhabited with wondrous species we hardly know. We trample on their environment and kill their young with our greed, negligence and malice. Given our ignorance it is all the more important to protect their..rather..our habitat and in doing so we save it for all.

  54. When it comes to bravery, intelligence, or compassion, “human qualities”, humanity doesn’t hold a torch to the animal kingdom. As we discover more about how animals are like people, it is akin to realizing that the world really is round and that the Earth orbits actually orbits around the sun. Wasn't it a human that “created” math and science, only to discover it was already known by every plant and creature. When you picture a mathematician, do you just picture a graduate of M.I.T. or do you picture a dolphin using vocal clicks to triangulate the trajectory of its prey, or a spider weaving an architectual masterpiece? I am grateful to the divers who had the empathy and courage to pursue this story, but isn’t it ironic how it always takes one or more exceptional human beings to move us beyond the boundaries of human exceptionalism.

  55. Nicely described!

  56. Maybe we are discovering people are more like animals. Recently I was on a whale watch and saw three (3) "Right Whales" and two "Finn Whales". What a joy to see these huge animals doing their gentle feeding in the North Atlantic.

  57. I know, I left out a couple ?s.

  58. Readers should try to ignore the muck usually found in our news (especially stories with any politician's name in them) and instead focus on this rare and beautiful offering today. It is a delight in many ways.

  59. I can't remember the last time I broke out into a spontaneous smile reading an article. I applaud these volunteer scientists and encourage them to ignore the ignorant stuffed shirts who call them hacks. Keep going, and thank you!

  60. I just have to try a spontaneous communication with you, as my real name initials are also JL and I grinned all during this admirable presentation and your applaudable comment.

  61. I prefer to believe the whales are not saying "Hello", but "Please go away and leave me alone."

  62. So you can only watch the video on one of those tiny phone computers but not on a device with a larger screen, say a laptop? I think almost any film would look better on something larger than a 2 inch screen.

  63. You could get a dongle cord and connect it to your TV/Monitor/ Projector whatever and then you're controlling the picture with the phone yet seeing it on the larger screen. (some might even work with Bluetooth)

  64. Up north in Canada in Hudson Strait/Seal River you can float in the waters and hundreds of Beluga whales come to you. They only come to you if you sing to them. And when they come they talk to you. I ddid not understand what they said - most likely that I am a lousy singer - but they say they have 30 distinct word/sounds and are communicating with us. They sounded almost similar to these whales! I wonder if all whales think that that is the language we humans understand.

  65. I'm getting old, but I must put this on my bucket list! I want to be reincarnated as a marine mammal. And hope nobody spears me and eats me.

  66. what whales are really saying:

    you see these hideous looking things, andy, those are humans

    stay as far away from them as you can

    theyre ruthless and relentless murderers , and nothing is to be gained by being near them

  67. Sometimes I feel that way, but I live here in Tahlequah, America, the Cherokee Nation's Capitol. For 99% of human history we lived with nature. Healthy cultures that met our biological, social and spiritual needs. We all sang, danced and were creative. Humanity just took the wrong path. Humans are the same as any species. We are not the cancer--it is our empty, consuming, celebrity culture.

  68. I bet whales have a matriarchal society, so instead of Andy, I'd wager the message is "Mildred, my great-grandmother, was harpooned by one these pests and then somebody had the gall to write a book about it!"

  69. So long and thanks for all the fish.

  70. "Every few months Mr. Schnöller gets an angry note from institutional researchers claiming his data is “unscientific,” or that he’s harassing the animals, or that he’s a hack"

    There are well-established reasons for doing research in a scientific manner.

    It would have been really helpful if the reporter had given a bit of explanation as to *why* other researchers think this data is unscientific, or that these divers are hacks.

  71. Well established reason #1: avoiding anthropomorphic nonsense like "I could tell by staring into its eye it was an intelligent being."

    They may well be highly intelligent, but let's not pretend we can judge that by looking at their faces.

  72. I learned something about another world today, not only of whales but also of the bold humans who study them. I wish them all well!

  73. They're saying "Guys, stop messing with our home."

  74. It has always seemed like extreme arrogance of humans to assume that only we feel sorrow, affection, intelligently interact with their environment. Of course sentient and intelligent animals such as cetaceans such as dolphins/whales are communicating with what I am sure we will discover is "language". Likewise for elephants, who are known to be highly intelligent. After all, if you think that the lowly octopus and crows create tools how is it possible that such advanced animals such as whales and elephants don't have some kind of intelligence that is equal to ours? Just because we are too dim-witted to understand what they are saying doesn't mean that they are lesser beings.

    I loved this article. I wish those in this research project all the best of luck with their dives and the data that they are collecting. I would have loved to have been involved with something such as this when I was young. Thank you for sharing and find a way to help us save these magnificent mammals.

  75. Nice try on conversations with the whales. In our sick minds they are saying, "It's O.K. to slaughter us like the billions and billions of other creatures of this world. And go ahead and ruin our home. Trash it."

  76. Then imagine a whale having a conversation with krill.

    Every living thing on this planet needs to do two things and one of them is EAT. And given the chance, most living things on this planet would be just as happy eating you. Ask a flesh eating virus. Ask a mosquito. Lobsters would eat you without butter and lemon!

    We didn't choose to be this way, there is no "God" that made us this way, we are this way because we evolved this way. Are we an evolutionary misstep? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's up to us to decide.

    If we look at evolution's "goal" as being bringing as much of the planet to life as possible, and there is no denying that we are the most prolific facilitators of life creation the planet has ever seen (at least at this oxygen level) even as, yes, we are responsible for extensive animal extinctions. Then we have to conclude that we are not an evolutionary misstep.

    I love the science of this story. And I am a whale fan. And I am an Interspecies communication fan. But I won't let that fandom anthropomorphize a "Human Guilt" projection onto the Whale.

  77. Enlightening articles like this raise the question: Why don't we boycott Japan--and every other nation that still hunts and kills whales?

    There are many things to admire about Japan but their continuing slaughter of whales and dolphins is not one of them.

  78. I agree, but why stop at Japan? China and several SE Asian countries (e.g. Thailand, Vietnam) are the primary markets for "parts" from dwindling and highly endangered wildlife - including rhinos, tigers, Asiatic bears and African elephants. The United States and western European countries are the primary hunters of African wildlife. Iceland and Norway, ostensibly our allies, kill whales just as Japan, and in terms of sheer numbers Norway may well be the world's biggest offender. There is still a lot of teaching and educating to be done to keep some (many?) humans from destroying our only home and its intricately connected webs of life.

  79. How would humans communicate and otherwise express our intelligence if we took the form of whales and lived in the oceans? How would we develop language and express concepts and thoughts without lips and vocal cords; how would we develop and preserve culture, and pass on knowledge without arms and hands to make tools and write? The answer may lie here.

    But then consider that human consciousness may not be the ultimate level of being; that these whales with their larger brains and possibly more complex neural interconnections may result in the emergence of a different level of awareness beyond human consciousness that we may not ever be able to understand, much less respond to.

    I would hope that our friends in the sea here are on to something much greater than our own petty human-level concerns.

  80. The answer to that probably lies in their extremely predominant Right Brain hemisphere, many times larger than their Left. MUSIC, not language as we conceive of language, is probably the best basis from which to start. That's what I suspect, anyway.

  81. WardB; Given all the clap-trap on the front pages today, this was enlightening and compelling. Long a fan of whales, I do believe that we're not alone on our orb. Considering that 70% of our world is covered by water, yes, we need help!

  82. oh come on, no animal is gonna say hello to human beings... ..

  83. Hubris, thy name is human! Perhaps these gentle giants are pleading with us to remind us that not everything is about the human. Our selfishness, greed and total lack of respect for the planet will bring everything down if we don't get an attitude adjustment, and soon...

  84. Nope. We do not need to talk or "whisper" to them. Just respect their space. Clean up the water being dumped to oceans. Stop throwing trash into seas. Stop wasteful fishing practices. Stop overpopulating.

  85. This is incredible. We must protect our co-inhabitants of our planet and learn their wisdom.

  86. The more we learn, the more we begin to realize that we are not unique or alone on this planet. To the extent that humans do not yet understand that we are not the only intelligent animals in nature, it is because our knowledge (and ability to understand creatures different from us) is still limited.

  87. Have any of the investigators in this fascinating article pursued whether sperm whales might engage in electromagnetic (EM)-based communication either among individuals or with the whale's inanimate environment? It seems so plausible to me that highly intelligent creatures with highly developed neurological systems would have evolved an EM way to communicate just like humans use radio frequencies to enable vast amounts of two-way communications.

  88. This species' Right Brain hemisphere is many times larger than its Left. It is probable that it's much more into analog than digital.

  89. Is it possible they have a cetacean-style email system? I ask that half-jokingly. I wonder how far along the chain the messages travel to? Do they send "news reports" to all the other whales, and I wonder how many reverberations, like ripples from a thrown stone in a pond, it makes and how far reaching the vibrations are. What lucky men. I have dreamed I rode on whales' backs and was singing to them!

  90. It is likely future generations will look back at this time as an era of slavery.
    We still have human slaves exploited for cheap labor ( sex trafficking, diamonds, shrimp . . .) while sentient animals are enslaved for thoughtless human wants: fur, aquariums, food, zoos. We know this model is not sustainable in any way.

  91. Thank you NYT for such a beautiful and uplifting story. We need such stories these days.

  92. I had an eye to eye once with a whale I will never forget,but it was on a fishing boat out by the Faralons near SF; the pod circle us for 45 minutes and kept swimming under the boat and eyeing us, got this incredible sense of calming well-being, they seemed to be saying it would all be ok---very spiritual experience

  93. How arrogant man is.

  94. Why is there no way to view this on a PC? Margaret Sullivan, where are you, now that we need you?

  95. I can't get the video on the nyt vr app to play longer than a few seconds. it stops at the same frame every time. didn't know if anyone else had that issue. i have plenty of memory on my iphone 6 and am viewing it in google cardboard

  96. Thanks for this perspective! Questions for the Facebook Live event:
    1. If you had an unlimited budget to study whale communication, what would you do first?
    2. Are you connected with the Whale.FM project?

  97. Fantastic.
    A woodpecker opening a cracking door.

  98. I don't have a smart phone, don't want one. I do (obviously) have a computer. I would love to see the video, but it seems that is not possible. Just curious why an organization capable of such amazing work with whales can't post a video that people can actually watch...

  99. Humans do not know if whales have egos. We do know that researchers do. People swimming with whales will not accomplish anything for whales any more than swimming with dolphins has accomplished anything for dolphins. So far the interaction of our species with cetaceans has all been to the detriment of the whales. If we should ever learn to talk with the sperm whales where would we find the courage to explain to them that we slaughtered them to near extinction so that we could read at night. How to say that we are making the oceans unlivable so that we do not have to walk to the store. What promises could we make about reforming our behavior in the future?

  100. This article describes fascinating research regarding complex whale sonar communication.

    Here are some interesting related videos and audio recordings.

    - "Videos in DAREWIN on Vimeo" - vimeo.org
    by Fabrice Schnoller - I like -
    - "DareWin 3D"
    - "Click'R Prototyping"

    - "Audio - DAREWIN" - darewin.org
    Understanding whale and dolphin click communication - (click down arrow) Samples of sonar sounds and graphic patterns for - pilot, sperm and humpback whales, orcas and dolphins

    - YouTube - "Eye To Eye With A Sperm Whale" - Alexander Wilson
    Includes sonar clicks

    - YouTube - "Humpback Whale Shows Amazing Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets"
    This video has no whale sonar sound, but it feels great to watch the whale joyfully leaping, after being freed from the net.

    Human researchers face a daunting challenge regarding interpreting the meaning of the complex sonar communications of whales and dolphins.
    This may seem like a weird suggestion, but here goes.

    Advanced lucid dreamers report that, if they address specific questions to "the awareness behind the dreaming", they sometimes receive helpful, intriguing answers. Perhaps if some knowledgeable whale sonar researchers also gained proficiency in lucid dreaming, this intuitive source of wisdom could provide creative ideas for inter-species communication research projects. Who knows? Perhaps whales also have intuitive abilities, and they probably also dream.

  101. Perhaps the most astonishing discovery, and if ever a conversation is possible we have allot to learn from them. It's so amazing to believe that other animals are able to communicate in such intelligent ways and would open allot of doors to peoples hearts to care about other animals and our environment. Please work hard and diligently to prove this is true and the world will be a better place.

  102. Humans don't exactly appear to care about most other humans, except in the directly immediate personal or the vague abstract. Why should they care about sperm whales except for momentary entertainment and "Aww" moments? Not if it means they have to think about all the other things they need to fix or stop doing in order to do these beings justice (i.e., not further destroy their living environment).

  103. Some of the comments from conventional scientists, if fairly reported here, seem ill-considered. Primatologists have learned a great deal about the complex communications of nonhuman primates through naturalistic observations and playback experiments. Careful habituation allows them to observe the animals without "harassing them.

  104. But humans can't "carefully habituate" to this species, generally, without using technology and machinery. Those make NOISE, which is far more intense underwater than it is in the air. Sound is far more important to cetaceans than it is to humans.

  105. I love whales, and found this particularly interesting. Great article! What else will people tell the whales about?

  106. Percussive clicks and clacks are also used by crows (not their alarm or warning sounds). Also South African bushman languages.

  107. The mesmerizing photograph dovetails beautifully to this opinion piece. It reinforces the overall message that we are like an insignificant drop in the ocean, and we have such a miniscule understanding at times of this amazing planet and its creatures.

    My heart smiled when I read “The disruptive gurgle of scuba gear scares the animals away.” Imagine tiny floating bubbles frightening a whale of this size.

    I wish the researchers much success.

  108. I suspect that our first contact with alien life will be similar to our contact with sperm whales. Thus the study of sperm whale 'clicks' is extremely important.

  109. I do dig the new technology (albeit quite buggy on Mrs. Dred's phone)

    I couldn't help but wonder why they don't try playing a recording of a different whale to these whales and see what the response is.

    What might be really cool is recording one whale, playing it for another whale and then playing that whale's response to the first. whale.

    OTOH it might be just enough to really cheese off a multi ton creature whilst in its element. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do.

    But "DNA Sequencing" the sounds and experimenting with transposing "phrases" and then playing the newly spliced recording to whales and recording their response would be the "Trial and error" method for learning the language of the whales. But isn't that how we go about learning all language?

    I'd like to see what that particular whale would say if her sentence were repeated to her. "No, YOU Tarzan, ME Jane!"

    Anyway, thanks for the app, it's very cool, I recommended to all Five Stars!

  110. Your virtual-reality article claims to focus on conversation and whale sound, yet the only thing the VR presentation shifts when one moves one's head is the image, NOT the sound. Think about it.

  111. cool.

  112. Of course these animals are communicating! We have been learning, with multiple species, that it is hubris to think that we are the only intelligent creatures on this planet. Our relationship with whales has, I believe, changed. They know the difference between these divers and others. They may recognize that these divers have adapted to them, to make them more comfortable, and so welcome them. We have seen videos of dolphins and other marine animals approaching divers when they needed help, and the divers releasing them from nets, etc. So, communications have already opened in the most primitive ways. If we are really lucky, we can impact our own species, learn to live with other species, and some day learn what they can teach them. But first, we have to stop the killing, give up our machines and our wasteful polluting of the environment. In short, we must humble ourselves.

  113. I wonder what whales must think, as they communicate with the strange new arrivals in their pod, but the newcomers say nothing in return.

  114. There is absolutely nothing wrong with subverting the "scientific system," particularly since it is that very system that is often so deeply mired in arrogance, inefficiency, and fear, all nice and snuggly in a coat of questionable funding.

    Think Fayerabend.

  115. We continually wonder if we are alone in the universe and all this time the whales have been trying to tell us "Here we are."

  116. That is about the coolest thing I've ever read. How I want to be on the dive team! What an amazing experience. And I'm so grateful they are doing that work, perhaps making meaningful contact with another species. How will they make a 3-dimensional representation of "Sorry."?

  117. Contrary to this story, Sperm Whales are not the world's largest predators. Blue Whales are. They hunt, corral and eat krill, shrimp-like animals that actively dodge and avoid being eaten. The definition of "predator" is pretty simple; an animal that kills and eats other animals. So to disregard Blue Whales' active hunting as somehow non-predatory, because their prey is small and numerous, is vaguely insulting to the whales—and the millions of poor krill who are swimming mightily to avoiding eaten.