The sounds of the Beluga white whale

The sounds of the Beluga white whale

22 August 2012

Scientists have been studying the habits of the beluga white whales living near Bolshoy Solovetsky Island for 17 years. They use underwater cameras, but the huge sea mammals are dubious about the equipment they mount on the seabed.


"When we set up the cameras, the belugas approach to examine them. Sometimes they hit them with their jawbone or spray them with water," said Vladimir Baranov, senior researcher at the Institute of Oceanology.


Researchers say that beluga white whales have poor eyesight and live in the world of sound. They have recorded 30 types of sound that the "canaries of the sea" make, and have been trying to decode their meaning by comparing the whale sounds recorded by sonic detectors to their videotaped behaviour.


"The beluga white whales pronounce such vowels as 'ah', 'ooh' and 'yee' and they also chirp, ping, click, screech, meow and bleat. We have recorded approximately 30 types of sound that the human ear can distinguish," Baranov said.


The scientists have photographed about 300 Beluga white whales and intend to compile a catalogue of these animals.