“Bye, Buddy. I hope you discover your dad.”

“Thanks, Mr. Narwhal.”

In actual life, narwhals don’t converse English, just like the one bidding farewell to Will Ferrell’s character within the film Elf. As a substitute, they sound extra like this:


That’s an audio clip recorded by scientists final summer season beneath the icy waters of Northwest Greenland.

“If we wish to describe what animals are doing, we first higher perceive what sounds are telling us.”

Evgeny Podolskiy, a geophysicist at Hokkaido College in Japan. Podolskiy and his colleagues examine the soundscape of glacial fjords. They’re noisy locations, the place icebergs crash into the ocean and air bubbles fizz out of melting ice. These fjords are additionally residence to narwhals.

The animals are typically known as Unicorns of the Sea due to their single lengthy spiraled tusk. And they’re shy, which makes them onerous to check. So Podolskiy teamed up with native Inuit hunters, who snuck up on narwhals in kayaks and captured audio.


That’s the sound of a narwhal on the lookout for meals utilizing echolocation, like a dolphin or a bat.


And that’s a narwhal closing in on its prey, which it vacuums up into its toothless mouth.

“It begins sounding like, to my ear, like a chainsaw or one thing. Crrk. Crrk. Crrk. Crrk. It’s so many little clicks that we can’t even distinguish them. And that is acknowledged as foraging-related sound, used additionally by different animals, for instance different dolphinoids or bats, they do the identical trick. As a result of once they strategy the goal, the prey, which is for narwhals Arctic Cod or Greenland Halibut, they wish to replace their data concerning the place of the goal extra regularly, as a result of they aim it shifting. And they should suck it in. That’s why this interval is getting shorter. And we even through the use of some easy assumptions within the equation can understand how far the animal is from the goal.”

The whistles you heard earlier are regarded as social calls, people speaking with different narwhals. The researchers reported these observations within the Journal of Geophysical Analysis-Oceans. [Evgeny A. Podolskiy and Shin Sugiyama, Soundscape of a Narwhal Summering Ground in a Glacier Fjord (Inglefield Bredning, Greenland)]

“There are nonetheless sounds that we don’t know what do they imply and there are a number of like this.”

Podolskiy says that listening to narwhals is a primary step towards understanding this mysterious whale, and the way it will cope as local weather change, transport and different human actions alter its Arctic residence.

“There are all this stuff going down proper now within the area which can have an effect on one way or the other these animals. However now we have no clue even concerning the state or the earlier state of those animals. So if we wish to study what’s going to occur we higher begin now…and I hope that is the place sound monitoring will help us to study extra about these nonetheless mysterious creatures.”

—Julia Rosen

(The above textual content is a transcript of this podcast)

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