Extraordinary Talking Beluga Whales

Beluga whales trained by biologists to retrieve experimental torpedoes in the 1970’s and 80’s in Arctic cold waters thought of themselves as family to the crew. They often formed deep bonds with their trainers and would stay with them even though they were able to swim freely. The whales, especially one, learned to express their devotion in a quite human-like way over the years!

Beluga whale

Beluga whale communicating with his pod in Churchill. Ellen Cuylaerts photo.

Biologist Sam Ridgeway was one of the bilogists working with the whales and had high praise for the mammals.

“They come to think of us as family,” Ridgway said. “And that’s the reason they stay with us. We have no way of completely controlling them, and yet they do their job and come back. They kind of view themselves as part of a team.”

One of the belugas was named Noc (pronounced no-see) and he was particularly bonded to the staff. One day a navy diver thought he heard a command from his supervisor over the intercom while diving but it wasn’t from him. it was actually Noc mimicking human voice after carefully observing the interactions and commands from his loyal crew.

The diver thought he heard a voice order him to get out of the training tank. However his supervisor had not given any such order. Noc had over – inflated his nasal cavity in order to distort the sound he emitted. It was eerily human – like. Following this initial incident, Noc often attempted to communicate with his trainers and even did so on command.

If you listen closely you will hear the underwater dialogue that closely resembles human speech. Many whales and dolphins have this incredible ability to communicate through language. Blue whales have been studied and found to communicate over a 1000 mile stretch of ocean. We have so much more to learn from these incredible animals in the realm of audible communication!

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