Researchers Find a Whale Trying to Speak Human

For as much as we share a mutual curiousity with one another, humans and our whale counterparts have been long divided by much more than just the watery realm they call home -- namely the language barrier. But while whales' rich vocabulary of squeaks and sonorous calls is a far departure to our own undoubtably garbled-seeming tongues, at least one beluga is evidently willing to give speaking 'human' a try.

According to a report from the BBC, biologists from California's National Marine Mammal Foundation have found evidence that our ocean-going mammalian counterparts may be capable of mimicking our language. After hearing an animal speaking in an uncannily human-like way at their facility in San Diego, researchers finally found the source: a captive beluga, or white whale, named NOC.

Thankfully, to back up this whale of a tale, researchers were able to catch some of that chatter on tape:

Sure, it might sound a bit more like a kazoo than Cronkite, but cut NOC some slack. When we break down these sounds with science, it's really quite remarkable.

[Researchers] found that vocal bursts averaged about three per second, with pauses reminiscent of human speech. Analysis of the recordings showed that the frequencies within them were spread out into "harmonics" in a way very unlike whales' normal vocalisations and more like those of humans.

Of course, there's no telling yet what NOC might be wanting to talk about in his attempts at communication, but that really is besides the point; what matters is that the self-imposed divides we so often erect to distinguish ourselves from our animal counterparts may not be so insurmountable after all. At least NOC seems not to think so.

UPDATE: A previous version of this article indicated that the beluga was discovered in the wild, when in fact he was held in captivity.

Tags: Animals