Whales are very social creatures that travel in groups called “pods.” They use a variety of noises to communicate and socialize with each other. The three main types of sounds made by whales are clicks, whistles, and pulsed calls.
Clicks are believed to be for navigation and identifying physical surroundings. When the sound waves bounce off of an object, they return to the whale, allowing the whale to identify the shape of the object. Clicks can even help to differentiate between friendly creatures and predators. Clicks have also been observed during social interactions, suggesting they may also have a communicative function.
Whistles and pulsed calls are used during social activities. Pulsed calls are more frequent and sound like squeaks, screams, and squawks to the human ear. Differing vocal “dialects” have been found to exist between different pods within the same whale population. This is most likely so that whales can differentiate between whales within their pods and strangers.
“Whale song is a form of communication,” says Ben Welsh, executive creative director, M and C Saatchi Sydney. “It’s a form of communication that the scientists at The University of Queensland have been able to decipher and learn. I was intrigued by this fact and so we asked ourselves whether it would be possible to emulate a male humpback: to write our own love song and then play it, using the instruments of an orchestra? Could we serenade a humpback ourselves? Then imagine what could happened if the whales were to hear our song. We thought that would prove that when it comes to communication, anything is possible.”