Paul English, a journalist, was on a writing trip to Manitoba, Canada. English went off on a kayak across Churchill River, hoping to see beluga whales. At that moment, English explained that beluga whales congregate in the seas around Churchill every summer.
Thankfully, English had a plan in the works. He may not have been very good at it, but he prepared a cetacean playlist that he sang to the sea creatures. And as he sang those high-pitched sounds, you can guess what happened next.
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The whales began to swarm around him. Belugas teased him and his ship by tailing, following him around, and playfully bumping the boat. Finally, he put on his diving suit and dived into the ocean. Then, he saw how these pearl-skinned cetaceans gracefully navigated the waves. English kept singing as much as his equipment allowed. Eventually, several of the whales joined in.
An unforgettable experience
English’s experience with the belugas was genuinely unforgettable. He was able to witness the beauty of these creatures up close and personal. He observed how they interacted with each other and with him. Finally, he could appreciate the power of music and how it can unite people and animals.
Five interesting facts about beluga whales
If you want to know more about these whales, here are five interesting facts that may pique your interest and make you fall in love with beluga whales.
1. They can imitate human voices
Certain toothed whales excel at vocal learning, making them excellent mimics, including beluga whales. These whales are exceptionally skilled impersonators and even hinted at being able to mimic human speech.
Researchers have recorded wild belugas producing sounds like “a swarm of youngsters yelling in the distance.” Some captive belugas have even uttered human words, at least once convincingly enough to mislead an actual person.
2. They are slow swimmers
Compared to other species of whales, like Orca whales, which usually swim up to 28 mph (45 km/h), belugas swim much slower. They can travel at a maximum speed of 14 mph (22 km/h) — almost half the rate of other whales. But for belugas, being steady but quick swimmers is the best. One fun fact — belugas can swim both forward and backward.
3. They are highly vocal
These whales’ melon, the bulbous part in their forehead, can produce various sounds as it shifts shape. Did you know that a beluga can make 34 different calls? There is documentation where the researchers recorded many sounds. And that ranges from clicks, chirps, high-pitched whistles, bell-sound tones, and even bleats.
Additionally to that, it is also said that belugas use their melons for echolocation. Echolocation is a combination of two words, which are echo and location. So with that, it is simply a process where animals use their echoes to locate and identify specific things.
4. They are very loud
Aside from being very vocal whale species, belugas also have loud voices. Due to the range and frequency of vocalizations, beluga whales are considered “sea canaries.” And you can usually hear them over ship hulls and surface water.
You may not know this, but belugas don’t have vocal cords. That is why they base how they move, communicate, hunt, and find breathing holes on sound transmission. At the blowhole, the airflow between its nasal sacs produces sounds.
5. Their mucus is valuable to researchers
Mucus may seem useless to you, but not to researchers, especially if it is from beluga whales. As they swim back to the surface to breathe, belugas exhale thousands of tiny drops of respiratory condensate called “snot.”
Did you know researchers can find biological info about belugas with those simple whale snots? For example, researchers can learn about the whale’s stress, genetics, reproduction, microbiome, and diseases. And that is how whale snots became critical data for researchers.
The importance of coexisting with animals
The kayaker’s experience has genuinely elevated the phrase “music is a universal language.” Even if you spend the entire day debating if he’s out of tune, the belugas have already decided to talk to him, swim with him, and show him that intelligent creatures like them exist.
And this is not an opportunity that everyone gets. Therefore, if you’re swimming or paddling on calm waters and a beluga comes up to you, sing a song, or whistle a tune. Most importantly, it serves as a reminder that humans can coexist with animals who live on the same planet.
Humans and animals can coexist peacefully and harmoniously. We can learn to appreciate and respect each other, and we can learn to live in harmony with nature. Beluga whale watching is a great way to experience this harmony and better understand the environment.
In conclusion, beluga whales are utterly fascinating creatures. And the kayaker’s experience has genuinely elevated the phrase “music is a universal language.” Even if you spend the entire day debating if he’s out of tune, the belugas have already decided to talk to him, swim with him, and show him that intelligent creatures like them exist.
And this is not an opportunity that everyone gets. Therefore, if you’re swimming or paddling on calm waters and a beluga comes up to you, sing a song, or whistle a tune. But most importantly, it serves as a reminder that humans can coexist with animals who live on the same planet. Beluga whale watching is a great way to experience this harmony and better understand the environment.