A white whale which learnt to imitate the voices of humans may have been trying to make contact, scientists believe.
The male named Noc had a distinctly human-like voice, much to the surprise of scientists who previously thought whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.
Noc died five years ago after 30 years of living amongst dolphins and other white whales and being in contact with humans at the National Marine Mammal Foundation based in San Diego in California.
|NOC the white whale approaches a diver underwater. The whale may have begun speech-like sounds after hearing divers using underwater communications equipment, researchers believe.|
However, the incredible recordings of the whale were revealed for the first time as the team published their findings.
Sam Ridgway, who led the study, said: ‘Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds.
‘Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact.’
NOC with an underwater microphone which the team used to make recordings along with microphones on the surface.
Mr Ridgway and his colleagues first began to notice some unusual sounds in the vicinity of the whale and dolphin enclosure which was described a sounding as though two people were conversing in the distance in 1984.
The sounds were traced back to Noc after a diver surfaced from the whale enclosure to ask his colleagues an odd question ‘Who told me to get out?’
Although there has been other anecdotal reports of whales sounding like humans before, in this case Ridgway’s team wanted to capture some real evidence by recording Noc over the years.
The team built a special underwater listening platform to try and hear more ‘voices’.
The researchers analysed the vocal passages of a white while to discover how NOC made the unique noises.
It revealed a rhythm similar to human speech and fundamental frequencies several octaves lower than typical whale sounds, much closer to that of the human voice.
Mr Ridgway said: ‘Whale voice prints were similar to human voice and unlike the whale’s usual sounds.
‘The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale.’
By Mark Prigg | Daily Mail
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