[FoRK] The Loneliest Mystery of the Deep

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Tue Dec 21 21:54:38 PST 2004

No doubt --- except I'm not sure the law of large numbers (population  
of progenitor species) * the rate of positive (survivable) mutation  
would necessitate this in any given progenitor whale species.  Not that  
I would have an opinion about this even six months ago, yet lately I'm  
less a software architect than a meta-evolution architect:  "breeding"  
trading strategies.  Very exciting --- feeding my insomnia to an  
unprecedented extent --- yet very, very difficult / confusing.  I'm  
becoming convinced that LaMarckian evolution + some sort of memetic  
mechanism has a much larger influence in viable phenotypic  
(+behavioral) variation than previously expected...


On Dec 21, 2004, at 9:24 PM, Stephen D. Williams wrote:

> Simple mutation would explain this.
> sdw
> Jeff Bone wrote:
>> I found this strangely affecting...
>> ---
>> The Loneliest Mystery of the Deep (Science)
>> By circletimessquare
>> Tue Dec 21st, 2004 at 05:53:38 AM EST
>> For the last 12 years, a single solitary whale whose vocalizations  
>> match no known living species has been tracked across the Northeast  
>> Pacific. Its wanderings match no known migratory patterns of any  
>> living whale species. Its vocalizations have also subtly deepened  
>> over the years, indicating that the whale is maturing and ageing.  
>> And, during the entire 12 year span that it has been tracked, it has  
>> been calling out for contact from others of its own kind.
>> It has received no answer. Nor will it ever.
>> You can listen to the lonely whale at the NOAA. Its call is at 52  
>> hertz, which is roughly that of a low note on a Tuba.
>> The New Scientist informs us that blue whales call out at 15-20  
>> hertz. Fin whales at 20 hertz. Humpbacks sing at much higher  
>> frequencies.
>> All of these whales are types of baleen whale. These large whales do  
>> not make noises to echo-locate, but instead for purposes of courtship  
>> and kinship, maintaining pod formation. The noises are also of very  
>> low frequency—infrasonic—which also means the vocalizations travel  
>> for very long distances on the order of hundred of kilometers. Here  
>> are some samples.
>> The strange 52 hertz deep sea noise is not only from a whale, but,  
>> based on the noise's characteristics, is most definitely from a kind  
>> of baleen whale, says Mary Ann Daher, who recently cowrote a research  
>> paper on the subject in the journal Deep Sea Research:
>> The calls were noticed first in 1989, and have been detected and  
>> tracked since 1992. No other calls with similar characteristics have  
>> been identified in the acoustic data from any hydrophone system in  
>> the North Pacific basin. Only one series of these 52-Hz calls has  
>> been recorded at a time, with no call overlap, suggesting that a  
>> single whale produced the calls. The calls were recorded from August  
>> to February with most in December and January. The species producing  
>> these calls is unknown. The tracks of the 52-Hz whale were different  
>> each year, and varied in length from 708 to 11,062 km with travel  
>> speeds ranging from 0.7 to 3.8 km/h. Tracks included (A) meandering  
>> over short ranges, (B) predominantly west-to-east movement, and (C)  
>> mostly north-to-south travel. These tracks consistently appeared to  
>> be unrelated to the presence or movement of other whale species  
>> (blue, fin and humpback) monitored year-round with the same  
>> hydrophones.
>> The research that discovered the strange whale is the brainchild of  
>> William Watkins of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a  
>> pioneer in studying marine mammals via acoustics. Unfortunately, he  
>> passed away recently in September 2004, but his work continues at the  
>> WHOI.
>> Enter the US Navy and their SOSUS program, whose purpose during the  
>> Cold War was the identification of submarines via deep sea  
>> microphones, or hydrophones, sunken to the ocean floor. Declassified  
>> recordings from the program have been a blessing for studying whales  
>> and other deep sea animals who make acoustic calls. At the same time,  
>> the US Navy recently got in trouble when its SURTASS LFA program to  
>> saturate the deep with infrasonic sound for active rather than  
>> passive detection of enemy subs threatened to deafen and kill marine  
>> animals, especially mammals.
>> The mystery of the solitary whale has captured the imagination.  
>> Hypotheses as to its identity include the possibility that the whale  
>> is deaf, that it is a hybrid of two species, or that it is sick or  
>> malformed (although unlikely, since it has survived for more than 12  
>> years).
>> Or perhaps, if you want to get weird, you can note for fun that this  
>> story matches the plot of a Star Trek Movie. But Leonard Nimoy did  
>> not pen this story; it is for real.
>> Whatever the identity of this strange unidentified alien whale, it  
>> is, for now, the very definition of poetic, existential loneliness,  
>> in both time and space. The whale is somewhere wandering the  
>> Northeast Pacific, right now, in a rudderless, aimless track. And  
>> right now the lonely beast could be calling out for others of its  
>> kind, and finding none, for over 12 years and counting.
>> Weird and fascinating.
>> Full discussion: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/12/20/184723/82
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
>> --
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> -- 
> swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com  Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
> Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw

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