Whale Idol: Humpback songs hope to attract lost swimmers

Can you hear me know?: Biologists are using recorded whale songs played through underwater speakers to lure a pair of wayward humpback whales out of the Sacramento River in California. (Photo from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Can you hear me know?: Biologists are using recorded whale songs played through underwater speakers to lure a pair of wayward humpback whales out of the Sacramento River in California. (Photo from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Last winter it was a direction-less whale found up the Thames River near London. Now it’s two injured humpbacks found up the Sacramento River in California, 90 miles away from their normal ocean surroundings.

Ocean biologists are hopping to use recordings of humpback whale songs to lure the two wayward whales back to the ocean. Not only do the animals need to be moved for their own safety and comfort, but their presence has also tied up boat traffic on the river as well.

The plan was to use underwater speakers connected to a boat to play the whale songs to attract the whales down the river as the tide goes out. A flotilla of boats would be behind the whales, cutting off any escape routs back upstream.

Whale river: The mother whale slaps her tail in the Sacramento River. (Photo from USA Today)
Whale river: The mother whale slaps her tail in the Sacramento River. (Photo from USA Today)
The whales were first spotted in the river on May 13. They very likely were on their northward migration from their wintering waters off of Mexico. And some photos of the whales show they’ve been injured, probably by a boat propeller, but if they can get to the cleaner waters of the sea, the injuries have a good chance of healing without treatments.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i hope they make it back out to the ocean

posted on Sun, 05/20/2007 - 3:04pm
vanessa lee's picture
vanessa lee says:

i hope they can survive out there


vanessa lee

posted on Sun, 03/09/2008 - 4:32pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

So far, no good. The whale music did not lure the whales back out of the river. Plan B is now in action to use boats to herd the whales upstream to the ocean.

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 11:47am
adam schmedes's picture
adam schmedes says:

Do you know the kind of underwater speakers and amplifier they used?


posted on Tue, 06/07/2011 - 9:59am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I believe that the only way to get the whale out to ocean is a school of trained Dolphins. have team of about 6-12 Dolphin swim near or around the whale. I belive that together they will communciate an evenually all swin out together. try it please

posted on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 8:05am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

This post got me wondering about other proposed techniques to lure the whales back to the ocean. And it turns out that hundreds of people are writing in to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website, or calling into a voice mailbox, with ideas. They've suggested everything from decoys to, yes, trained dolphins, to ropes, to strategic dumps of salt water, to stopping the traffic on the bridge, to prayer.

Do you have an idea about how scientists might get the humpback whales to swim the 45 miles back to the ocean? Feel free to post it here. But also consider letting NOAA know:
[email protected]

posted on Tue, 05/29/2007 - 4:04pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that they use a cetain boat

posted on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 9:42am
idk's picture
idk says:

i love pandas

posted on Fri, 11/23/2007 - 12:43pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

As of this morning, whale music and boats have not gotten the whales to leave the river. Here's what they're going to try today, according to USA Today:

"Marine biologists plan to spray the whales with fire hoses in the next attempt to force the pair to head back to salt water. The method has never been tried before, and biologists don't know how the whales will respond Friday. If the whales like the spray, crews will try to lure them back to the ocean; if they hate it, they'll try to force them there. Biologists planned to spray the whales both above water and underwater from the deck of a boat on the Sacramento River."

-- Thor

posted on Fri, 05/25/2007 - 10:50am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

whales are in partent creatchers!this proses needs to happen fast!

posted on Fri, 05/25/2007 - 11:22am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Fri, 05/25/2007 - 11:26am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

The water hoses are working! USA Today reports that Friday's experiment by spraying the whales with a water hose got them to move. Unfortunately, there was just one fire boat used, so the whales were able to swim around it and find calmer waters. After the Memorial Day holiday, the U.S. Coast Guard will be bringing more boats equipped with hoses to try to splash the whales back to the ocean.

In the meantime, wildlife officials are going to try to keep a 500-yard buffer zone around the whales so holiday boat traffic doesn't collide with them.

I've also posted another photo of the mother whale slapping the river with her tail fin.

-- Thor

posted on Sat, 05/26/2007 - 10:19am
lulu's picture
lulu says:

i like whhales they are very cute and i think that this is fun

posted on Sat, 05/26/2007 - 1:54pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

The whales are getting back closer to the Pacific Ocean, but a new problem has emerged. Going into their third week of being in fresh water, they're now showing cracks and lesions on their skin. And that could make them susceptible to germs found in fresh water they they haven't built up antibodies against.

posted on Tue, 05/29/2007 - 5:00pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

As of Tuesday night, the whales had left the Sacramento River and are now in San Francisco Bay, about 10 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge and their return to the ocean. Witnesses are also saying that their skin problems appear to be clearing up now that they're back in salt water. But if they turn south instead of heading west, they could be stuck in the bay for some time....not a good place for whales with all the boat traffic scooting around there.

posted on Wed, 05/30/2007 - 7:32am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

As of even later Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, during the darkness of night, the whales seem to have passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and are back in the Pacific Ocean. Boaters could not spot them in the bay at all on Wednesday.

posted on Thu, 05/31/2007 - 7:53am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

cool man

posted on Fri, 06/15/2007 - 1:06pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I love whales they are so cute...i love them

posted on Sun, 06/17/2007 - 11:57am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think whalers ships should be constally patroled by goverment agents. To protect the whales from being wiped off the planet.

posted on Sun, 06/17/2007 - 1:51pm
Zach's picture
Zach says:

the whales should be tracked because that stuff could be happening somewhere else right now and we should be more careful with our enviorment

posted on Tue, 06/19/2007 - 2:09pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i just hope that who ever is trying to help the whales return...i hope that they won't give up. They probably won't give up on us, why should we give up on them?

posted on Tue, 07/24/2007 - 4:26pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i love whales they're pretty!!!!!!!! I love the pretty blue water they live in too!!!!!!

posted on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 10:20am
Angela's picture
Angela says:

I like whales because they are pretty. I know about the killer whale (orca) facts:
They eat fish.
The female has a shorter dorsal fin and the male has a taller dorsal fin.
They eat other whales.
They breathe from their blowhole on top of the ocean.
They eat dolphins, sharks and penguins.

posted on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:07pm
lily Elle's picture
lily Elle says:

I hope that people are helpin the whales. they are wonderful creatures. I hope that they stay around for many years to come!!!!

posted on Fri, 10/19/2007 - 9:44am
hannah gerlicher's picture
hannah gerlicher says:

i love the whales they are sweet creatures

posted on Fri, 10/19/2007 - 11:22am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

so we have so much in commen

posted on Thu, 04/17/2008 - 12:44pm
molly gerlicher's picture
molly gerlicher says:

I think they are beautiful

posted on Fri, 10/19/2007 - 11:25am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

very interesting thank you

posted on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 11:28am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Some of our cetacean friends sing beautiful songs, like the humpback whales in Maui.
-Friend to whales

posted on Sun, 02/17/2008 - 12:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

can u sing a whale song? i cant

posted on Tue, 04/01/2008 - 2:51pm
Martin A's picture
Martin A says:

There is a much more subtle reason as to my Whales either beach on sea shores or drift alone into rivers and it is simply this; these magnificent creatures are God's greatest expression of peace, love and harmony of the seas. Thus when such an animal is in distress, we humans of compassion and love of God, can only respond in the most holy manner. Therefore the oceans send whales to humans to remind us we are God's children too and must respond accordingly!

love and light


posted on Tue, 08/05/2008 - 5:26am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

This is, in some ways, the theme of the movie "Whale Rider," although the religious symbolism is Maori, not Christian.

posted on Tue, 08/05/2008 - 9:38am

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