Marine biologists, with help from Inuit whalers, have assembled an unprecedented collection of narwhal vocalizations, offering fresh insights into the behaviors of these near-mythical creatures.
Narwhals, the so-called unicorns of the sea, are notoriously difficult to study owing to their skittish nature and uncongenial habitats. Normally, narwhals are found deep below the Arctic Ocean surface, but they summer off the coasts of northern Canada and Greenland.
For the marine biologists who wish to study these creatures, this presents a bit of a problem, as narwhals tend to loiter around dangerous glacial fjords. Scientists who are willing to brave these hostile environments are often met with frustration, as the sounds of motorboats frighten the shy aquatic mammals away.
This partly explains why scientists have struggled to capture the various sounds made by narwhals. Perhaps surprisingly, these animals live in one of the “noisiest soundscapes in the ocean,” as it’s described by the authors of a new study published this week in the AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. Glaciers are really noisy, producing all sorts of groans and moans as the massive walls of ice inch toward and collapse into the ocean…