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52-hertz whale (wikipedia.org)
232 points by andrewstellman 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments



That's sad, yet beautiful in some way. My first thought was "wow, this whale managed to survive the japanese whalers for that long" but perhaps the japanese don't hunt that far north in the pacific and the fact it's a lone whale doesn't attract much attention. Since they are social animals and the individual is not malformed I would guess the deafness theory makes a lot of sense, but so does being a hybrid (thus a rejected individual). That is quite a story, thanks for sharing.


I would fund an expedition to put a device on this whale that emits a normal range frequency whenever it hears a a call of ~52 hz


This sounds like a violation of the prime directive.


After abducting a humpback whale from the past and delivering it to an unknown spaceship, I say the prime directive is moot regarding whales.


Evidence that it is a whale and that there is only one: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096706370...


I read all 13 pages of that article and didn't find any discussions refuting the possibility that it could be something else, like some piece of equipment on a submarine. The fact that it's very close to 50Hz mains frequency and is otherwise very "un-whale-like" in behaviour suggests to me that it's man-made.

This is probably getting into the realm of conspiracy theory now, but what better than to disguise a submarine to make it sound like a whale, and moreover convince everyone else that it is? Of course if it is actually some highly classified stealth submarine, we may never know...

It somewhat reminds me of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peryton_(astronomy)


Mains frequency has a max 0.2% deviation, which puts your whale well outside of what mains should ever be.

And if you're trying to be all conspiratorial about it and suggest it's a submarine... well, how about making the submarine sound like a normal whale first.


If someone were trying to disguise a submarine as a whale, why wouldn't they give it a normal whale voice?


Because 52Hz might be easier and have some other advantages (like perhaps masking some other more identifiable sounds)?


why 'trying to disguise', could be inadvertent machine noise?


> I read all 13 pages of that article and didn't find any discussions refuting the possibility that it could be something else, like some piece of equipment on a submarine.

Given the range over which it operates and how long it has been doing so and the fact that no one has admitted it is one of theirs suggests if it is a submarine, it is one from a major military. Those put considerable resources into making it hard to hear their submarines. This thing is way too easy to hear, which probably rules out submarines.


    Seaman Jones: [teaching Beaumont] Hear it now?

    Beaumont: [resigned] No.

    Seaman Jones: Beaumont, at Caltech we used to do this in our sleep! You hear it now?

    Beaumont: Wait a minute...

    Seaman Jones: Uh oh...

    Beaumont: Buried in the surface clutter...

    Seaman Jones: Yeeeesssss?

    Beaumont: I should go to SAPS?

    Seaman Jones: Correct! Seaman Beaumont, Signal Algorithmic Processing System. Give it a week and you'll be teaching at Caltech. So, like Beethoven on the computer, you have labored to produce... [dot matrix printer rattles] ...a biologic.

    Beaumont: A what?

    Seaman Jones: A whale, Seaman Beaumont, a whale. A marine mammal that knows a hell of a lot more about sonar, than you do.


If anyone is interested to learn more about the history of recordings, see the following, the first of which has some .wav files holding discussion and recordings, and the second of which is an obituary that reveals much of how such work got started.

Schevill, William E., and William A. Watkins. “Whale and Porpoise Voices: A Phonograph Record.” WHOI unnumbered reports. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (contribution 1320), 1962. https://hdl.handle.net/1912/7431.

“William A. Watkins.” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Accessed July 7, 2018. https://www.whoi.edu/mr/obit/viewArticle.do?id=1579&pid=1579.




>moves out of range of the hydrophones in January–February

I would have thought the entire ocean is covered by now?


The ocean is so big that some people call it "the last great frontier." There is so much of the ocean we have not explored.


SeaQuest DSV


I really enjoyed it on Netflix, although it never found it's voice.


yet I read that every meter of ocean floor was physically 'plowed' multiple times over by fishers, on average.


Where did you read that? It can't possibly be right: the Pacific alone is 160M km^2.


Maybe they mean the area of ocean floor plowed > area of ocean, but the same parts of the ocean are being plowed over and over again by fishers. Most of the ocean is not being used for fishing.


Not even close. Coastal regions, yes. But go out of costal regions or below a kilometer of depth and it gets awfully spotty.


Military networks have been substanially cut back in recent decades. The far north, and most all the southern oceans, are no longer a focus. No risk of russian subs, no listening.


Genuinely curious if you know: Has there been any effort to revisit this in recent years? I'm curious given the rise of China + Russia in the Arctic and China's demonstrated belligerence in the Indo-Pacific. [1,2]

1 - https://breakingdefense.com/2018/07/china-russia-in-the-arct... 2 - https://www.newsmax.com/philipguthrie/china-pacific-taiwan-u...


Large ballistic missile submarine fleets and a military posture that makes an attempted first strike likely are the main reasons to maintain such a net.

China has 7 active ballistic missile submarines. The US has 35 active nuclear attack submarines.

It's probably cheaper to run a less thorough net and then task subs to shadow any contacts made.


>> Large ballistic missile submarine fleets and a military posture that makes an attempted first strike likely

It was in the past. Today such things can be used for all sorts of intel tasks. Sosus is real time info about positions/speeds of all ships, surface or not. Satellites cannot do that. I imagine that the US is also using sound to monitor Chinese building activities in the south china sea. There is also, probably, some economic intel to be gained by monitoring shipping/fishing fleets, again, in a way not easily replicated from space.


Per Wikipedia, 68 active US subs. All are nuclear powered, 18 carry nuclear weapons.


Wikipedia apparently has different numbers on different articles.

You're only going to be shadowing ballistic missile submarines with attack subs, which means (total nuclear boats) - (18 Ohio class).

Based on the individual class pages (LA, Seawolf, Virginia) there are 53 active SSNs.


The 10x sped-up recording reminded me of the dial-up handshake tones (this example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dial-up_Internet_access is not a very good match)


Is there a non sped up version somewhere?

(Yes, I know how low the frequency is, but a good sub-woofer speaker should be able to play it audibly)



Just read Fluke by Christopher Moore if you want to know what this is REALLY about.


Could you give us a quick summary of the relevant ideas?




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