pilotwhales 203x300 UK Seas Getting Too Noisy, Whales Forced to Shout Mating Calls Louder

Pilot whales - Picture by: Clark Anderson

Researchers who have been studying the whales making their homes in the seas surrounding Britain have discovered that their calls have become ten times louder over the past five decades as they have battled to be heard about the noises accumulating in the seas.

“The rumbling noises emitted by ships and marine installations have similar frequencies to those used by whales,” explained a marine researcher over at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Peter Tyack.

“We found that whales are trying to adapt either by emitting much louder noises or by calling at higher frequencies. It’s like they’ve turned from a bass into a tenor.”

Whales are well known for their ability to talk to each other by using low frequency noise.

Sound waves have the ability to travel for hundreds of miles under the water. The lower the frequency the farther the sound wave can travel.

The number of most species of larger whales have diminished to less than five percent of the number they should be at, so this ability to communicate over large distances is paramount to their survival. However, Dr Tyack and other researchers have concerns that the noise pollution we are creating in the oceans is drowning out or canceling out the mating calls of these whales.

“The whales are not just getting louder. Their messages are getting simpler and repeated more often, just like a human forced to shout,” he explained.

“It also means they spend more energy on communicating.”