Why do some people find whale songs to be relaxing?

Whale Watching

The 2004 film Finding Nemo tells us how to ‘speak’ whale, but do we know much about why whale songs are so unique? Humpback whales are known for their beautiful ‘whale song’, consisting of long sound patterns that travel long distances across the ocean.
Many people praise whale songs for being relaxing and calming during stressful moments.

Read along as we dive deep into the mystery of the whale song, and discover why it is so relaxing.

Why do whales sing?

Sound travels almost five times faster in water than it does through air, making it an excellent tool for long-distance communication. Humpback whales are known for their ‘song’ that floats through the ocean.  But did you know that their song is an essential part of whales lives? Humpback whales use various clicks, whistles and pulsed calls, all of which are used for different purposes. Every humpback pod has their own unique dialect; This helps differentiate whales in their pod from strangers.

 

Whale clicks are believed to be for navigation and identifying physical surroundings in a behaviour known as ‘echolocation’.The whale’s click will bounce off objects which return an echo that gives information on the object’s distance and size.

Whistles and pulsed calls are used for long-distance communication between whales. Reasons for this include:

 

 

  • Males informing other males or females that they are in the area.
  • Warning other whales of predators such as orca or sharks.
  • Coordinating pod hunts
  • For fun!

Mother and calf swimming close together.

How do humpback whales sing?

Unlike humans, who talk and sing using vocal cords in their throat, humpback whales have more complex vocal structures that form on special sacs that line their throat. To ‘sing’, whales move air between the sacs and lungs, allowing them to sing without losing any air.

Each whale population has their own song. Over time parts of the song change, creating a completely different tune; Changing pitch, melody or entire melodies.  If different pods of whales are in earshot of each other, they can trade phrases to add to their songs.

Why do some people find whale songs to be relaxing?

There have been claims that whale music soothes crying babies, calms women during childbirth and can help people drift to sleep. Ian Samuels, director of a lifestyle CD company, suggests that people listening to whale music find their breathing subconsciously slows to match the whale notes.

Samuels says: ‘The whale’s moan is long, slow, contains a range of pitches, and is repeated in patterns. These characteristics make it perfect for relaxation. And people associate it with the tranquillity of the ocean.’

Next time you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, skip counting sheep and instead put on calming whale song music.

Excited passengers delighted by a ‘spyhopping’ whale.

Do only male whales sing?

Both female and male humpbacks can sing, but only male whales produce loud and long melodies, suggesting they use it to attract females.  All of the males in a local group sing the song in roughly the same way.

Females have been known to sing to their calves, but only at a whisper-like volume to not draw attention from other whales. They don’t take part in the famous ‘whale song’ style of singing.

How can humans hear whales sing?

Did you know that you can listen to humpback whale songs live without getting wet? Sea World Cruises use an underwater microphone called a hydrophone. Just like your average microphone that collects sound in the air, a hydrophone detects sound signals when submerged in water. 

Whale Watching Cruises with Sea World Cruises have hydrophones they use during whale watching tours, which are broadcast over a loudspeaker for guests to experience the spectacular whale vocals.

Want to hear the whale song for yourself? Jump aboard our Whale Watching Cruise, the number one whale watching experience on the Gold Coast, Australia.

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