Mysticete Sounds

  • Thomas J. Thompson
  • Howard E. Winn
  • Paul J. Perkins

Abstract

Historic literature contains many allusions to mysterious sounds heard at sea, and these tales may comprise the earliest references to mysticete sounds. The “songs” that sirens sang and the sounds of “ghosts” on ships were perhaps partially based on the sounds of mysticete whales. Many of the stories were probably derived from experiences of sailors traveling by shallow banks and islands in the tropics (L. Winn, personal communication). Much of this lore may be attributable to the humpback whale song, which is emitted during the mating and calving season and could easily be heard through the wooden hull of sailing vessels. Aldrich (1889) stated that whaling captains listened for “singing” whales during their expeditions. Whales included in this subjective account were bowhead, right, humpback, and devil-fish (gray whale), all capable of producing various sounds. On occasion, sounds were heard from live stranded whales. Little else was reported until hydrophones were extensively employed during World War II and various “groans” and “moans” were heard. Although the sound source was usually not known, it was often suspected that at least some of these sounds were produced by whales. However, most hydrophones were incapable of detecting very low frequency sounds below 100 Hz.

Keywords

Migration Beach Hull Ghost Argentina 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Thompson
    • 1
  • Howard E. Winn
    • 1
  • Paul J. Perkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Graduate School of OceanographyUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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