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Whales Hanging Out
One day during our whale swimming trip to Dominica, another diver and I followed a large female and a juvenile whale. They moved slowly, untroubled by our presence; had they not wanted us nearby, a couple of vigorous strokes would have left us far behind. At a certain point, the two separated and we followed the juvenile, who led us to a group of four whales who hung vertically together (to give you a sense of scale here, three of these whales were at least thirty feet long and well over twenty tons). They are at a depth of 30-100 feet:
Many scientists believe that whales sleep like this, but we saw them twisting about and even bumping into each other. The researchers at Darewin think that in such close proximity the whales are communicating very detailed information to each other.
With standard echolocation, whales send out clicks from the large bulb of their head and then capture the echo returning off of objects with their 36-52 teeth, each one individually providing its own information to create an exact, three-dimensional image. (Contrast these multiple receptors with humans’ limited stereo vision and hearing).
However, when sperm whales hang together, they emit more detailed, complex sounds (codas) to each other, the content of which is indecipherable to us. These communications are repetitive and precise (when viewed on an oscilloscope, they repeat with a digital precision). Perhaps the whales need to be in close proximity for these signals, and they send the messages directly towards the teeth of their nearby friends.
Are they beaming holographic images to each other? Or are they just chatting about the weather, the awkward human divers, or their latest adventure chasing giant squid 3000 feet below the surface of an azure-blue sea?
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
Every Trekkie knows Kirk’s anguished cry toward the (joyous) end of IV: The Voyage Home as he appeals to the humpbacks. ;-)
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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