weekly photo challenge: unlikely

For this week’s photo challenge, I am resharing a post that tells the story of the loneliest whale in the world.  It is one of my earliest post and still touches my heart today for I believe her story is not unlike so many people today. It is unlikely that her story doesn’t resonate with many of us, young and old.  

In 2004, The New York Times wrote an article about how, since 1992, scientists have been tracking a baleen whale named, “The 52 Hertz Whale.”  She swims and sings alone in our earth’s vast ocean:

Not heard nor seen

She isn’t like any other baleen whale. Unlike all other whales, she doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t have a family. She doesn’t belong to any tribe, pack or gang. She doesn’t have a lover. She never had one.

Her songs come in groups of two to six calls, lasting for five to six seconds each. But her voice is unlike any other baleen whale. It is unique—while the rest of her kind communicate between 12 and 25hz, she sings at 52hz. You see, that’s precisely the problem. No other whales can hear her. Every one of her desperate calls to communicate remains unanswered. Each cry ignored. And, with every lonely song, she becomes sadder and more frustrated, her notes going deeper in despair as the years go by.

Apparently not only is her song indecipherable to other whales, she also doesn’t follow the typical migration pattern of its species, making it even less likely to connect with others.

Just imagine that massive mammal, floating alone and singing—too big to connect with any of the beings it passes, feeling paradoxically small in the vast stretches of empty, open ocean.

How many of us, because of our unique characteristics, walk alone on mother earth calling out for another, waiting for another?

60 Comments

  1. A paradox indeed. Between the whale and us… outward characteristics, thing that unites contradictory qualities, yet so quaintly unified. In a strange but not unpleasant manner. Mirroring a connection between all of God’s creation.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I do know that some people prefer to walk upon this earth alone; yet, it seems to me that that is a journey of unspeakable suffering.

  2. I love this post, and your blog is so beautiful!! Can’t wait to come back … I only wish I could hear the sad songs of 52 Hertz (and I also wish somebody would give her a real name!)

  3. Brenda, Thank you for this poignant gift. My book group just read and discussed “How To Read The Air” by Dinaw Mengestu. It’s about isolation, loneliness and the love you hope for, told through the eyes of an Ethiopian man, born of two lost immigrant souls. The whale story resonates with me, it’s so like the character’s dilemma in this book.
    Toni

    1. I thank you. My soul yearns for stories that validate the need to share our thoughts, to be heard, and to find refuge in community.

  4. What if we could let the whale hear a recorded song of a normal whale and maybe she can learn to sing at the same frequency. Then we’ll lead her to the other migratory whales during migration.

    1. Since scientists are taking the time to observe her, it would indeed be compassionate if researchers explored ways to help her reconnect with others. Thank you for sharing your compassion.

    1. Yes . . . it would be nice to hear her song . . . when I was pregnant I would play a tape of whale songs, for my daughter.

  5. So sad for this poor whale, especially since she has no way of understanding her isolation. It is an amazing story and an amazing share.

  6. I need to look into this whale more.

    Where is she from? Is she a mutant? Is she more advanced than the other species that she’s closest to?

    A very interesting parallel even to SETI researchers and others who wonder if we’re the only species of our kind in the universe.

    Another fascinating parallel to those of us who call out for a response from God that they think is a genuine call back as opposed to the many who feel certain by leap of faith alone.

    Fascinating.

  7. Beautiful writing. To cheer you up just a bit, blue whales can communicate up to 200 Hz, so I can assure you that other whales of her kind do certainly hear her (but from the picture and the statement that whales of her kind communicate between 12 – 25 Hz you must be talking about a blue whale). Also, few baleen whales are considered social and big part of their time they cruse around the vast oceans alone, especially blue whales. But there is still so much we don’t know about the blue whales. However, we do know that the incredible low frequency sound of the immense strength (up to 188dB) produced by blue whales can travel from pole to pole. That is for lone rangers, separated by vast oceans, to communicate. If she’s not able to produce the low frequency 10 – 12 Hz sound, that might be of some problem for her.
    Where I come from the blue whales communicate between 40 – 150 Hz (approximately) during the summer, so I can assure you that they would hear her. Remember blue whales are giant lone wanderers that regularly meet up with each other on feeding and mating ground. Unlike us they are much less dependent on close contact of others on daily basis. And how can you know if she ever had a “lover”, I guess no one has followed her every minute of her life. Don’t forget, she’s a blue whale and lives a blue whale lifestyle 🙂

  8. Heartbreaking! Did you ever see the movie Fly Away Home? It is about a goose raised by humans,and it needs to learn how to migrate south and mix with its own kind. I wonder if the same might be done with this lonely whale.

    1. I have not seen the movie; yet it encourages me to wonder about the human nature to observe, test, or photograph while others engage through helping, teaching, or being with.

      1. We do not watch much TV, and don’t have cable, but when we stay in a hotel, we will sometimes watch the nature channel. That was years ago, but I am still disturbed by the program in which the camera crew allowed a baby lynx whose life story they were following to starve to death so they could film it.

    1. It seems that those who are unique may find themselves in the spotlight for a moment or two . . . but at the end of the day . . . they are alone.

  9. This made me sad and also introspective on many levels.

    Many thoughts, how do they know it is a female? Perhaps she was born deaf? Why don’t some of those scientists find some funding and introduce her to her species by careful intervention? Thanks for sharing.

    1. I have wondered about the possibility of deafness . . . there seems to be a message about the marginalization of uniqueness in a world where sameness equals inclusion. Thanks for visiting.

  10. Thanks for visiting my blog Brenda. I love this post, it is poignant because it highlights the journey I’m making right now. Although I do have people around me the journey itself has to be taken alone and that, for any social animal, is isolating.

  11. Aand on my first visit to your blog you break my heart. Being able to communicate with your social group is vital. I wonder if an injury or birth ‘defect’ causes the frequency difference.

  12. What an extraordinary story. I like your closing thoughts. So many of us are essentially alone yet, like the solitary whale, maybe the path of the solitary does lead us to sing our own song and to travel paths of our own making.

  13. Wow what a beautiful post. And an amazing photo. And so relateable. I think often people feel like no one can hear them and that they are completely alone in the vast space of the world. Thank you for sharing this story.

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