Whale of a tale and it's all true (2005-11-10 - 12:36 p.m.)
Did you know that whales do not have vocal cords? Maybe this is common knowledge, but I had never really thought about it. Despite their lack of vocal cords, they make a number of sounds with a huge frequency range (depending on the species of whale) and no one is quite sure how. Apparently the most likely theory is that they force air through sacs or cavities in their bodies – which is crazy, considering how far these sounds can travel. The lower-frequency ones can go thousands of miles! (Makes sense as the wavelength would be so long).
You can identify a whale by the markings under its tail. They are as individual as human fingerprints.
Yes, I did spend last night talking to Brad’s sister Shannon about her research, how did you guess?
I am so jealous though. Not of her actual project, which sounds difficult and dependent on a lot of uncontrollable factors – but imagine being paid to wander around Antarctica documenting whales! Apparently they now have recorders in the Antarctic which are capable of picking up a year’s worth of whale-sound data – however, with no visuals, there is a limit to what you can tell from this data. (ie.you know when there are whales about, but you don’t know what they are doing or why). Shannon’s research involves following whales and trying to develop some kind of correlation between the sounds they make and the behaviours they are engaging in. (In which they are engaging?) This would make me nervous – there’s a lot of scope for disaster if your whales don’t turn up, or don’t surface, or don’t do anything… and operational questions as well, like deciding how to break whale behaviour down into categories, and how to keep these categories consistent between observers. But still! Whale-watching in Australia and Antarctica!
Shannon reminds me of her brother in that they both know exactly what they want and go for it single-mindedly. What Brad wants is to see the entire world, and so far he’s managed to make a pretty good start. Shannon wants to be a whale, and while this might be difficult she’s probably come closer than most, I’d say.
I could use a little more of that, I think. I have a distinct tendency to get side-tracked.
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