An underwater prankster that talks like a human is stirring up conversation off the Southern California coast.
The beluga whale that was tamed in the 1970s by the U.S. Navy to find and retrieve sunken torpedoes and mines has become, it seems, an enthusiastic member of a team of humans–and now, wants to communicate like his pals.
Apart from his goofy and curious nature, nothing was especially unusual about Noc’s life with the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) – until he started chatting up the divers over the intercom.
While two divers were fixing up the whale enclosures underwater, they thought they heard the radio buzz with an order to get out of the water. When they resurfaced, their supervisor insisted he had issued no such request.
The order had come from Noc.
After the marine trickster’s first verbal episode over the radio, the beluga couldn’t contain himself. Sam Ridgeway, co-founder of the NMMP, got to work recording Noc’s outbursts.
Strangely enough, the whale would gab away with his human friends all day long, but never with the other belugas in the program. Ridgeway assumes this is because of Noc’s connection to his trainers. Belugas normally travel with pods of about 25 other whales, but Noc’s trainers became his adopted family.
“[The whales] come to think of us as family,” Ridgway told Smithsonian magazine. “And that’s the reason they stay with us. We have no way of completely controlling them, and yet they do their job and always come back.”
Using the nasal cavities, Noc builds up pressure until he’s fit to blow, then uses the organ responsible for echolocation to release the air in oral bursts though his lips in a process that sounds unnervingly like human conversation.
There have been rumors in the past of hearing whales imitate human sounds in the ocean before, but Noc is the first ever recorded beluga, and the most articulate warbler, by far.
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