This week, we’ve had several kids in the library looking for books on various sea creatures. It’s project time! Lucky for us, we happen to have a large number of books on everything from whales to sharks to jellyfish, so the kids are leaving with two books each on whatever species they’ve chosen. (So much better than an entire class doing a project on corn–in French! Uh, our selection there is small, to say the least.)
But it reminded me of a recent story I read about a “Christmas Whale”, the loneliest whale in the ocean. This particular whale has been swimming a channel in the North Pacific Ocean since at least 1989. That’s when researchers started tracking him. A Baleen whale (a cetacean without teeth) uses sound to communicate and has a very particular vocalization frequency range (between 10 and 31 Hertz). This one, however, vocalizes at 52 hertz…much higher than the other whales in his category.
Scientists have been listening to whales in the North Pacific for years and usually pick up this particular whale’s vocalizations between August and December (which is why they call it the Christmas Whale). Here’s where it gets sad. While whales use their vocalizations to attract other whales, to find a mate or family member, no other whale on record has ever answered the Christmas Whale’s call. It simply drifts along the corridor of microphones, sending out whale-message after whale-message, only to finally swim off. Alone. Every year. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it?
It’s possible the other whales just can’t “hear” the Christmas Whale, since its song is so different. Or maybe they won’t acknowledge it, sensing it as something foreign. Either way, it must be a lonely life for C.W. You can read more about this interesting creature on the Wood’s Hole Ocean Oceanographic Institute’s page. Or you can listen to a recording of the 52 hertz whale vocalizations at at NOAA here.
So far, no one has asked about books on whales, but I’ll certainly suggest this if we get any more students in to do projects.
Our official documents have arrived! We’ve adopted TAB, a humpback whale! We received a nice little package in the mail today with all sorts of interesting things about our whale and the Brier Island Whale research project.
It seems that our newest addition has been spotted already this summer, but a little further south, just off Bar Harbor, Maine. They even sent us a detailed listing of each spotting…since 1981.
Along with a newsletter about the 2010 season, we received information on all types of whales and a special sheet just about TAB and his antics. You can stop in and see more in the whale window!
This summer, as part of the SPLASH theme, we’ve decided to adopt a whale! No, he won’t be staying AT the library, but we’ll be helping him and other humpback whales continue to visit their summer feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy!
TAB, “our” humpback whale
The Bay of Fundy is a summer feeding ground for many species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) as well as seabirds. The strong tides help drive nutrients to the surface of the water to feed the plankton, which then attracts small schooling fish. The humpbacks (and other cetaceans) eat these schooling fish. The Bay of Fundy is a great place to see some of these whales, so if you’re out that way this summer, take a tour!
Our humpback whale’s name is TAB and so far, he (or she) hasn’t been spotted yet this season, but as the whales are just arriving in June, there’s plenty of time. TAB has an all white tail (and yes, we’ll admit, we did pick this whale because of the tail alone). Researchers first spotted TAB in the Bay of Fundy in 1981 and have seen him there every summer since 1984. Hopefully, they’ll spot him again this summer. You can follow the Brier Island Blog to keep track of which whales have been spotted and what’s going on in the area.
If you’d like to donate a few pennies toward our adoption fund, feel free to drop into the library and pick up a brochure at the front desk. We have a whale jar located there as well. The cost of adopting TAB this summer is $25 and any money we earn over that amount will go toward children’s programs at the library.