Subject: Sounds-'An EAR on the Sea' (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Thu, 9 Sep 1999 08:16:57 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 13:15:33 -0500
From: jackie <>
Subject: ecs-'An EAR on the Sea'


As promised, I have attached a copy of our new ezine
below.  I would appreciate your comments and participation.
We would love to run short articles on the topic of
underwater acoustics.
For those who have already contacted me and I have not contacted yet, pleas=
bear with me, I will be in touch very soon.=20



"An EAR on the Sea"

The eZine* of the Sea...
    ... the Creatures within ...
        ... the sounds they make ...
            ... and the people who study them!


Published by:                              ARRETEC
Address:    PB3098, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, U.K.
Co-Editor:                           Jackie Butler
web site:      

August 15th, 1999                 Premier Issue #1


# Welcome to "An Ear on the Sea"
    ~ Our Mission
    ~ About Us
    ~ How come you're getting this first issue?

    ~ Can you NAME the original 7 SEAS?

    ~ Do Dolphins and Whales 'TALK'?

    ~ Where in the World are Whales in September?

    ~ Shouldn't we leave them alone?

    ~ RESOURCES: Whale, Dolphin, Manatee, and Seal
                 Photos you can use for FREE!
    ~ IN THE NEWS: Stories from Newspapers
    ~ POLLS: 'What do you think about...'
    ~ LINKS to our favorite WEBSITES
    ~ Much More, too!

        WELCOME to 'An EAR on the Sea'!!!

This is our premier issue. We hope you like it and
we appreciate your comments.  Please see the
'Details' section at the very bottom for our
contact address.

OUR MISSION: The Oceans and Seas of the world
cover 80% of our planet Earth.  Yet we are still
very ignorant about how it works and who lives in
it. We who live ON the surface rely on the light
from the Sun to make our way.  But the creatures
who live in, or dive deep into the sea in search
of food,  have no light - their eyes are useless.
Instead, they use sound to find their food, to
navigate long distances without getting lost, and
to communicate with their mates.

'An EAR on the Sea' is focused on animals in the
sea and how they live.  We hope our readers will
come to appreciate the wonderful world that
remains hidden from our eyes.  We want to
encourage you to learn more about the seas, and
for those of you still in school,  perhaps help
you to make it your life's work.  For teachers, we
hope to suggest activities that will stimulate
your pupils both in and out of the classroom.

ABOUT US: We live on the sea.  Our company makes
low cost hydrophones (underwater microphones)
which allow you to hear whales, dolphins,
manatees, fish, shrimp, and every other form of
sea life that makes sounds.  But, our main
interest has always been exploration.  We've
travelled the Oceans of the world in search of
discovery on our own sailing boat converted into a
research vessel. Everywhere we look we see
something new, and learn something new about the
sea and its creatures.  Now, we make products and
write books to help people of all ages to discover
things for themselves.

HOW DID YOU GET THIS?  In the past you signed up
for a free newsletter or asked to be sent
information related to whales, dolphins, sea life
or similar topics. We obtained your email address
from that source - it is called an opt-in
emailing.  If for some reason you don't want to
receive 'An EAR on the Sea' please accept our
apologies for the intrusion and follow the
'Unsubscribe' instructions at the very bottom. On
the other hand, perhaps you would like to tell a
friend about us! 'Subscription' instructions are
also locate at the very bottom of this Ezine*.  If
you want to continue receiving 'An EAR on the
Sea', do NOTHING.  It will be sent automatically
each month.

(* ... an 'Ezine' is a 'newsletter' or 'magazine' sent
to subscribers by E-mail!)

The sailors of old sang about having 'sailed the
Seven Seas'.  Can you name the 'Seven Seas'?  Can
you find them on a map?  (Answers at the VERY, VERY


Thirty years ago it was generally accepted that
animals only made 'noises' - grunts of pain, or
howls to warn off rivals. Today, we understand
that these are more than just 'sounds'.  Animals
DO 'talk', and these sounds may form a primitive
language. Nowhere in nature is this more evident
than with whales and dolphins.

When you listen to dolphins with an underwater
microphone, like DolphinEar, (it's called a
'hydrophone'), you hear an incredible variety of
sound.  But, is it a language? There are squeaks,
whistles, clicks, groans, 'creaky door' sounds.
Is there a purpose to these? Is there a 'whale and
dolphin' vocabulary?

Researchers have now shown that each dolphin has a
'signature whistle' unique to it alone. Other
dolphins recognize it just as we recognize the
voice of a friend, or family member.

Dolphins, whales and other aquatic animals make
clicking sounds which travel through the water,
hit an object and bounce back - just like an echo.
It's called 'echo location' and it is one of the
main ways dolphins and toothed whales locate their
food. Why? Can't they see the fish with their
eyes? Not necessarily.  Sunlight doesn't penetrate
very deep into the water. Dolphins can dive to
great depths in search of food and their eyes are
useless because there is no light! Many dolphins
also live and hunt in water that is very murky -
even at the surface you can only see a few feet in
front of you. So, 'echo location' is very

Scientists make recordings of these 'echolocation'
clicks using hydrophones.  When you play and
analyse them on a computer, you see that echo
location clicks vary greatly.  And, you begin to
wonder if they have another purpose as well. Could
it be that dolphins are using some form of digital
'language' to communicate with other dolphins?

The problems of deciphering 'dolphin language' are
monumental!  First, we don't really know for sure
if it is a language. But evidence strongly
suggests that it is -even if it's not a language
as we know it.

How do you start to unravel this puzzle?  If you
were suddenly transported to some foreign land
where everyone spoke an undecipherable tongue, you
would have a far easier task.  After all they
would be people and therefore they would use the
same vocal chords (transmitters) and ears
(receptors) as you yourself use.  You might
observe these people closely, watch their actions
and listen for the 'words' that went along with
these actions.  It sounds straightforward and
easy, but how many different words do we use to
describe the same thing? Eventually you might
create a rudimentary dictionary.

Explorers did just that in the mountainous jungles
of Papua-New Guinea, a large island in the South
Pacific Ocean where the terrain was so rugged,
that people from one village never had contact
with the people in the next village.  In that
small island, there developed over 500 different

With dolphins and whales, the task is far more
difficult.  We don't know what to look for. We
don't know how a dolphin's brain works and we
don't know how it interprets subtle variations of

This is one of the great mysteries of marine
science.  Someone is eventually going to discover
the 'key' that unlocks the door of understanding.
It might happen in 5 years, or 50 years, or 500

How would you find the 'key'?  First you need
'data'.  That's a big problem because there are
limits to what researchers can do and how much
money they have to do it.  Researchers can't do it
alone.  They need lots of help from people
all over the world recording sounds and making
observations of dolphin behaviour.

So what do you do?  You might go out and find an
area along the coast where dolphins come to feed.
Dolphin 'communities', or pods, are known to work
together to herd fish up to a beach. The fish
become trapped and the dolphins gorge themselves
in the ensuing frenzy. This herding takes very
careful coordination.  What sounds are being made
by the dolphins?

Is there any similarity from one dolphin species
to another in a widely separated geographical
area? Who knows, perhaps an Atlantic bottlenose
dolphin makes the same type of sound when it herds
fish as his Pacific cousin.

Like our human example, watching specific actions
and listening for common sound patterns is a good
starting place when you want to learn a new
language. This is where an 'amateur' researcher of
ANY age can make a substantial contribution.
Remember, in the astronomical world, almost all
comets are discovered by amateurs.

Watching dolphins in captivity isn't the same.
You have to listen to their 'conversations' while
they're at work in the 'real world'.

So, step one is: 'find dolphins'.  Step two:
'watch them, make notes, and record the sounds
they make'.  Step three: 'Listen to your tapes
over and over to see if there is some pattern to
the sounds'. Step four: 'Share your tapes and
observations with the world and study what others
have found.'

Send us a copy of your recordings and notes. We'll
put them into a sound database on our website with
your name on them. A shared collection such as
this will be extremely valuable to both amateur
and professional marine researchers around the

Who knows your recording might be the one to
unravel the mystery!?  Remember the 'Rosetta
Stone'? One simple stone tablet unlocked the
mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.


Whales generally migrate from one place to another
and the trick to seeing them is to know where they
are.  That makes sense!!  For September, try these


    ~ SOUTH AFRICA: Southern right whales visit
    the warm, shallow bays from Cape Town to Port
    Elizabeth every year during the May to
    November season.  But they are most plentiful
    in September and can be seen easily from a
    high lookout along the coast, or better yet,
    from one of the whale watching boats that
    serves the area.  You'll also see humpback
    dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and lots of
    other sealife.


    ~ NEW SOUTH WALES: Migrating humpback whales
    transit this area of Australia's east coast in
    September.  There's lots of other small
    cetaceans, too!

    ~ VICTORIA: Southern right whales come close
    inshore as females calve along the southern
    coastal areas.


    ~ MAINE (U.S.): From now until late September, you'll
    see fin, minke, humpback and right whales.
    Many people go to the easternmost part of the
    US, Quoddy Head, and watch for them from the

    ~ MASSACHUSETTS (U.S.): The famous Stellwagen Banks
    just offshore makes a great whale watching
    trip. You'll see fin whale families from the
    sandy dunes overlooking Cape Cod Bay, too!

    ~ NEW BRUNSWICK (Canada): See fin and minke
    whales from now until late September.

    ~ NEWFOUNDLAND (Canada): Humpback, fin and
    minke whales frequent the area in search of
    food.  Plus lots of harbor porpoise, white
    beaked dolphins and Atlantic white sided

    ~ NEW YORK (U.S.): Head out toward Montauk Point at
    the tip of Long Island before the end of
    September and you're likely to see some fin
    and minke whales.

    ~ QUEBEC (Canada): This is the best time to
    visit the ST. Lawrence River to see those
    eerie white beluga whales, plus minke and fin
    whales, too!


    ~ WASHINGTON (U.S.): See Killer Whales
    (Orcas) in the protected waters of the San
    Juan Islands, one of the best whale watching
    areas of the world.

If you want to find out more, or if you are
looking for a charter boat that conducts whale
watching tours, have a look at out website:


Q. I've heard that dolphins come into bays and
coastal areas to get rested. Shouldn't we leave
them alone?

A. You should always strive to look at marine
animals without disturbing them.  But, dolphins
are very curious and often pop out of nowhere to
have a look AT YOU!  They seek out boats and play
in the 'bow wave' - getting carried along just a
few feet in front of the boat for great distances.
They generally seem to enjoy themselves in this
activity!  After five to ten minutes of play, they
get bored and swim away. The point here is, that
the dolphins, and not you, are the ones making the
decisions - to play or not to play! But if you see
some idiot boater heading full speed into an area
where dolphins are feeding or playing, be sure to
make some notes and tell someone about it when you
can. Boats should be operated at very slow speeds
when near whales and dolphins.



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Today, the term 'Seven Seas' refers to all of the
oceans of the world.  But, go back a century or
two and the 'Seven Seas' (to a European navigator)

    1.ATLANTIC Ocean
    2.PACIFIC Ocean
    3.INDIAN Ocean
    4.ARCTIC Ocean
    7.GULF of MEXICO

    Of course, an ancient mariner from another
culture  might give you an entirely different
list!  Today, ocean charts show nearly 50
different 'seas'.  A sea is always attached to an
ocean. But, because of geographical features, or
differences in the depths of the water, 'seas' are
often distinguished by unique biological activity.
Some species of fish and marine mammals are not
found elsewhere even though there is no physical
blockage preventing them from spreading to other
areas of the ocean.

This publication may be forwarded in unedited form
only. To receive permission to reprint one or more
of the articles contained herein, please contact

=A9 Copyright 1999 by Arretec
  - All Rights Reserved