back to article Aussie boffins translate whale chat

Aussie boffins have been eavesdropping on our underwater cousin the humpback whale, and think they've managed to decode a bit of what the swimming mammals are saying to each other. According to Reuters, the researchers have clearly identified the sounds of a mother issuing a warning to her calf, and of a male trying his luck …


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  1. Ferry Boat

    Official fuel consumption figures

    I bet researcher Rebecca Dunlop is tyred after all that research.

  2. Chris Thomas

    Hold the phones Doris!!

    Breaking News!!!!

    Whales are marine animals, news just in, confirmed by multiple sources, we are still awaiting our top biology expert to confirm this amazing insight into the world underneath the waves

    We have a quote from a source saying:

    "Its quite fascinating that they're obviously marine mammals, they've been separated from terrestrial mammals for a long, long, long time, but yet still seem to be following the same basic communication system."

    This is gonna make my name in stars!!

  3. Steve Evans

    Let me guess..

    -Hello, my name's Willy.

    -Oooh, fish/algae, yummy!

    -Aggggh! Big fish with pointy teeth, swim faster junior!

    -Hey, guys, I've spotted Ahab!

    -Oooh, I've never been down the Thames before, I wonder what's down there....

    -I don't want another potato you muppets.

  4. breakfast Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    One for the boutique

    Hopefully the valued idea nurturers of the strategy boutique will be able to make the most of this by listening only to appropriate whalesong for the brand whose horizons they are expanding at the time. In fact the whalesong could even become the brand in itself! This idea has legs! Well, fins.

  5. Mountford D

    Is that whales or Wales?

    Ah! So that's why the last time I made a purring sound to a female in Wales I got a smack in the chops.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    soon there will be a bablefish for whalechat "alright mate with be" WAOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    but translated back it will probly end up saying "wheres your mother sleep"

  7. Simon Harris

    So, how soon can we get Whale on babel-fish?...

    ... and how long before the first accidental diplomatic incident between the whales and the Dutch foreign minister?

  8. TeeCee Gold badge

    Either that.......

    ....or whales speak perfectly good English and all they're hearing is a set of coded sounds meaning: "Act nonchalant lads, someone's listening".

  9. GrahamT

    The first sound...

    ...they decoded was "Testing, 1, 2, 3. 'ere, do you reckon anyone's listening?"

  10. MrT

    Gary Larson...

    ... had it right with his cartoon about the first guy to invent a translation device for dogs - who found out all the dogs were saying 'woof'...

    The whales are going 'weeee' and 'whoooop' like a kid playing on a swing or slide. When the boats go away, they get back to chatting about krill.

  11. Mike Moyle

    @ breakfast

    "This idea has legs! Well, fins."

    Not really... It'll turn out to be just a fluke.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    obvious conection

    Why didn't they just use babelfish? it's good enough for Israeli journalists!

    I'll get my coat, and leave now.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ MrT re: Gary Larson

    ...had it right with his cartoon about the first guy to invent a translation device for dogs - who found out all the dogs were saying 'woof'...

    I believe dogs were actually saying "Hey!"

  14. lglethal Silver badge

    On a serious note

    I wonder if showing that Whales are intelligent and able to communicate with each other might go some way to convincing the Japanese to stop hunting these animals for "scientific research"...

    Although, im sure they'll come up with some excuse like "We were just trying to bring them to the surface with our harpoon so we could have a bit of a chat to them but for some reason the harpoon killed it. What a shame. We'll just have to sell the meat back in Japan now..."

  15. Adrian Esdaile

    So Long And Thanks For All The Fish...

    If my memory serves me correctly, 'wop' is the noise made by a Krikkit Warship appearing.

    If those guys are talking to the whales, then the Vogons can't be too far away!

    Where's my Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic?

  16. chris pash

    Sounds of a Harpooned humpback

    I wonder what sounds the humpbacks will make this Antarctic Summer?

    The japanese fleet leaves japan in the next two weeks with an Antarctic shopping list: 935 minke whales, 50 fin and 50 humpback.

    Humpback whales haven't been hunted since 1962 and some harpooned may include individuals seen of the East and West colast of Australia.

    Humpback whales have learned to trust man in the forty-five years since we stopped hunting them. If Japan carries out its aim of harpooning 50 humpback whales in the Antarctic this Southern Hemisphere Summer, the whale watching industry on Australia's East and West coasts will soon find out. The humpbacks are the same as those who delight Australians each year.

    There is no benefit to mankind by killing these whales. Their meat won't help hunger among the poor but will grace the tables of the wealthy. The killing is done in the name of science but is it science to kill the subject?

    chris pash

  17. Steve Roper

    How this will be misused

    The scary thing about this kind of research is the ill uses to which it will inevitably be put by the enterprising Japanese. Such as lowering loudspeakers into the water and making amorous whale noises to lure them to the harpoon boats - and giving them even more of a reason to pass it off as "scientific research".

    As a regular contributor to Greenpeace, I sent them an email stating that I would gladly approve of them using my donations towards fitting a deck cannon or a torpedo tube to the Rainbow Warrior for the express purpose of sinking Jap whalers. Their reply was that they sympathised with my anger, but that such actions were not on their agenda and that their name, GreenPEACE, should indicate to me that their methods don't include acts of war!

    But maybe Greenpeace can also now use this knowledge to have frogmen weld speakers to whaling ships that emit the "wop" sound, scaring all the whales away...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: How this will be misused

    The Japanese have been trying to play back sounds for years to attract whales but they haven't had any luck yet. Sea Shepherd will take that Greenpeace donation for a deck cannon. They sail under a pirate flag and have sunk whalers in the past.

  19. Big_Boomer

    Aussie Boffins?

    The rest I can believe, but Aussie Boffins?

    "G'Day Bruce, welcome to the University of Walamaloo"

    "Thank you. What exactly do you do here at the university?"

    "Well Bruce, we get a few tubes, scare up some sheilas, have us a barby, and then we get on the boats and go whale botherin'."

    "How on earth do you get funding?"

    "Jeez Bruce, we ain't boffins but we ain't stupid either. We just send in a report every so often on how we can translate whalesong and all them stupid pommy bastards believe every bloody word. Got money comin' out our arseholes from all them stupid hippy marketing types."

  20. kerlmann

    Waste of money...?

    Everyone who's seen Finding Nemo knows that a John Dory fish is all you need to interpret whale noises. So, anyone speak John Dory, eh? (Apart from Ellen Degeneres?)

    You've got to ask yourself, was this 3-year project worth the time and money in all honesty? As fascinating as this may be, finding solutions to Planet Earth heating up or alternatives to fossil fuels would surely be a better use of however many millions they spent on this. Perhaps whales are part of the solution, what do I know.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: On a serious note @lglethal

    "I wonder if showing that Whales are intelligent and able to communicate with each other might go some way to convincing the Japanese to stop hunting these animals for "scientific research"..."

    I wonder if showing that people are intelligent and able to communicate with each other might go some way to convincing people to stop hunting these people.

    I don't think the whales have much of a chance.

  22. Curtis W. Rendon

    @Waste of money...

    "Beam me up Scotty, no intelligent life here."

    Or comprehension of basic research. Go back yo your accounting, where you know the problem before you look for it.

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