National Geographic : 1999 Jul
ByOUGASH. CHADWICK Photographs by FLIP NICKLIN ITENING TO, the passage of so many tons of flesh come eddying back up in a column that smooths the restless sur face of the sea. Naturalists call this lingering spool of glassy water the whale's footprint. Out between theHaw iia islands of Maui and Lanai, Jim Darling nosed his small boatintoa frsh swirl. The whale that had left it was visible 40 feet below, suspeded had down in pure blueness with its 15-foot-long arms, or fliper, fard out to either side like wings. "Ta'h posture humpbacks most often assume when they sing," A yrpone dangling under the boat picked up the animal's voice andfe itino a tape recorder. We could listen in with headphones but hardy nede them. The music was reverberating through the hull and risig fom he waves. Bass rumbles that could have issued from the lowstoctveof a cathedral pipe organ gave way to plaintive moans and the t glssndos like air squealing out of a balloon when you stretch Wth otes building into phrases and the phrases into repeated thees te ong may be the longest-up to 30 minutes-and the most compex n te animal kingdom. All the humpbacks in a given region singthe amesong, which is constantly evolving. Experts have analyzed thereqences, rhythms, and harmonics and the way themes change DOUGLA H. CADWICK and FuIP NICKITN, both frequent contributors to NATIONAL GEOGAPHI, aso teamed up for our August 1998 article on bottlenose whales.