The Sounds of the Sea

This archive of marine mammal songs is music to our ears.

April 13, 2015

Photo: Christopher Michel/Flickr

Some nature enthusiasts can identify the call of an oriole or a white-throated sparrow with great ease (there are even apps for it), but why should birders have all the fun? Surely, marine mammals lovers would like to hone in on the songs of their fave animals, too—and now they can.

The late William A. Watkins, an anthropologist who invented the first underwater recorder, documented many of the sea’s sounds, which have been kept at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. With more than 50 years of recordings from various researchers in numerous corners of the ocean, the collection has been helping scientists figure out how the noise of humans—from sonar, ships, and the like—is affecting marine mammal communication. Now, the public has access to the archive as well. So, want to be able to identify a whale, dolphin, or seal species by its song, squeak, or bark? Well, dive in and take a listen. 

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.