Whales Found Mimicking Human Speech, Possibly trying to CommunicateIf you ever had any doubt that whales are intelligent, dispel it now. A group of scientists have caught one white whale modifying its speech patterns in an attempt to sound human.
And this is much more than just parroting back lines. In order to sound human, the whale had to drastically alter the way it produces sound, and drastically change how the whale approaches making noise.
One story in particular: In 1984 strange chatter began happening between the dolphin and whale tank at the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Not much longer, a diver emerged from the water asking "Who told me to get out?" The eventual conclusion: a white whale we call NOC.
This whale was a little different from most white whales. It had grown up in captivity, surrounded by dolphins who had been working with humans for ages, and other white whales that had been around humans for a long, long time. Perhaps it was this exposure to the human element that let NOC drift close enough to humanity that its utterances were recognizable underwater.
Interestingly, there have been other reports of whales sounding like humans. But all the tales were anecdotal. Scientists being scientists, however, the team at the Marine Mammal Foundation wanted audio proof.
They found it.
While they never did manage to capture the animal saying something intelligible, the mere presence of the voice is remarkable. Whales make their noise through their nose, not their throats. To mimic human voice requires an incredible amount of precision and control. You can listen to a sample here.
But more telling might be the communication between the dolphins and the whale. Not only are their vocalizations more similar, their world-views are bound to have more in common. The constant communication between NOC and dolphins is likely proof that they understood each other, at least in some rudimentary way. Like makeshift sign language with someone who speaks something different from you.