The Whale That Speaks Human


Image: U.S. Navy

Ever heard of the whale that speaks human? Meet NOC, a white beluga whale that "talks" just like you and me:

For years, NOC was part of the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, which was aimed at studying whether whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals could do underwater reconnaissance or perhaps even disable mines. NOC was captured in 1977 in Canada's Hudson Bay and brought down to California to work with researchers and divers. (He was the smallest of the pack, and Ridgway says that led to the nickname "no-see-um," or NO-C for short.)

Seven years later, the researchers noticed that NOC spontaneously started making unusual sounds — "as if two people were conversing in the distance just out of range for our understanding," they reported in the journal Current Biology. One time, a diver came to the surface outside NOC's enclosure and asked his colleagues, "Who told me to get out?" They soon concluded it was the whale, which must have been saying "Out, out, out."

Alan Boyle of NBC News' Cosmic Log has the story: Link (with sound clip of NOC singing "dum-diddy-dah" tune)


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