I can’t imagine not being awed by massive air-breathing creatures that move through the water. Whales are smart creatures that live in a dark, alternative Earth-world, where sound is the dominant sense.
This weekend I got a chance to see this wonderful exhibition from New Zealand— complete with two sperm whale skeletons and a life-size model of a blue whale’s heart– at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History. (I’ve mentioned the blue whale replica at AMNH before. The heart replica blows your mind in the same way– an adult person can fit inside). Check out the first part of this video.
Blue Whale, copyright iStockphoto.com/roclwyr
In my post last week about blue whales singing in NY Harbor, I mentioned that I had an email out to the Cornell Bioacoustics Research Program to find out the current status of the NY harbor listening project. I heard back yesterday from Connie Bruce at Cornell:
The current status is that we have terminated data collection efforts as of April of this year. The data we collected is approximately 50% analyzed and yielding ground breaking scientific information since this, to our knowledge, is the first acoustic study of it’s kind in the NY area. Dr. Clark is encouraged by the initial results to continue and expand the study.
They are actively looking for funding sources to continue the research, and the clock is ticking.
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They’re the largest animal to ever live on Earth, and for the first time researchers have confirmed that blue whales have been singing off the coast of Long Island. (These animals are almost unfathomably huge. If you’re in NYC sometime, check out the blue whale model suspended in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Ocean Life. It’s mind-blowing.).
The Cornell University Bioacoustics Research Program working with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation had placed underwater listening devices deep off the coast of Long Island to understand more about which whales and how many might be swimming along the shore. This blue whale was singing nearby in January 2009.
Christopher Clark, the head of the Cornell Bioacoustics Research Program, and his colleagues have been listening to whales in many different waters. In Massachusetts Bay, they’ve set up a listening network of floating buoys specifically designed for detecting endangered right whales in the harbor (There are less than 400 remaining North Atlantic right whales which migrate along the East Coast each year). That listening network is connected with a system for alerting ships to slow down for right whales in the area. (My article about the network appeared in Wildlife Conservation magazine in April).
While there’s excitement in hearing the sounds of these creatures in NY Harbor, there’s true environmental concern. Endangered and threatened whale species face a jungle of obstacles in these traffic-filled shipping lanes. In addition, budget cuts forced the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to pull their funding for the listening project– which also meant pulling the buoys– back in March, after just one year.
I have an email out, asking about whether they’ve found other funding. But I’m guessing we’ve lost our tiny window on that whale world, for now.