It’s my stop on the Ocean: Secrets Of The Deep Blog Tour, and I am delighted to welcome Sabrina Weiss to my blog with a fascinating guest post…
Sounds of the deep by Sabrina Weiss
The ocean is noisier than you might expect. Not just because of breaking waves or the loud engines of passing industry vessels: In an environment where sound travels five times faster as it does in air, animals have found creative ways to talk to each other over great distances.
Dhow sailing boat in Maxixe, near Tofo © Giulia De Amicis
Perhaps the most well-known examples are the dolphins and deep-diving sperm whales, which use echolocation to hunt prey. They send out clicks and listen for echoes as they bounce back. Using sound waves and echoes to find food becomes particularly important in deeper waters where the light dwindles to little or none.
Our new book, OCEAN: Secrets of the Deep, sheds light on other surprisingly noisy creatures too. The humpback whales, with their lovely, melodious songs will amaze many readers. These gentle giants learn new sequences of song throughout their lifetime as they migrate and meet other groups of whales. But, it’s only the males that sing. Their beautiful song may attract the attention of a female, or it could be a warning to other males in the area so that they can continue their courtship undisturbed. These songs, a mix of moans, grunts and shrieks can be incredibly loud. I remember these sounds very well from when I was diving in Mozambique.
Every year, male and female humpback whales travel thousands of kilometres from Antarctica to this tropical coastline to mate or give birth to their young.
The water is often green and murky during the winter months, the high abundance of plankton brings the visibility down to just a few meters. Being in the water, barely being able to see my entire dive group, the whales’ sounds left me in sublime awe…and slight bafflement. It was impossible to tell where the sounds came from! At times, when a whale was very close, the sounds were so loud I could feel my chest vibrate.
Humpback whales flapping their fins in Tofo © Sabrina Weiss
The ability to make sounds is not just reserved for ocean giants. In this book, we explore some of the smaller critters as well. Damselfish, for example, create pulsed sounds to defend their territory. Others grind their teeth to do the same. And in large schools of herring, farts are not frowned upon: Scientists recently found that these fish collectively pass gas to produce bubbles that make a high-frequency sound. Our ocean friends are just full of surprises!
About The Author…
Originally from Switzerland, Sabrina Weiss is a London-based STEM communicator working for the British Ecological Society, an environmental charity, and for the Marine Megafauna Foundation, which works towards protecting endangered ocean giants such as whale sharks and manta rays. Her aim is to explain the importance of conserving our oceans in an engaging and accessible way.
OCEAN: Secrets of the Deep by Sabrina Weiss, illustrated by Giulia De Amicis (£14.99, What on Earth Books)
Follow Sabrina on twitter @sabrinamweiss and Giulia @giulia_de_amicis
Huge thanks to Laura and What On Earth Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops on the blog tour.