Approximately the size of a city bus, the Atlantic Minke Whale is the smallest of the rorquals, or large whales. An adult minke whale is approximately 35 feet long and weighs more than 20,000 pounds. Humans lack the physical body parts like phonic lips or a melon that some whales use to make their calls, clicks, whistles and other vocalizations, so no human can actually speak whale. But by learning what the different sounds mean, it is possible to understand what whales are communicating to each other.
If you listen carefully to the recordings below, you will be able to tell the difference between the sounds. Ongoing research continues to translate the meaning of these sounds and when we understand what each sound means, we’ll know what each whale is communicating to the other whales and “speak” their language.
Minke whales produce a variety of sounds described as clicks, grunts, boinks, thump trains, and ratchets. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association recorded these calls, both of them have been sped up 10 times their normal speed in order for you to hear it better.
General call A (10x normal speed/9 sec):
General call B (10x normal speed/40 sec):
Atlantic Minke Whales are known to produce repetitive, low-frequency pulse trains (100-500 Hz) that usually are composed of grunt- or thump-like pulses.
Grunts will typically last 165-320 msec and will be between 80-140 Hz.
Thumps will typically last 50-70 msec and will be between 100-200 Hz.
The entire pulse train will usually last a minute or less (usually 40-60 seconds), and will be will be repeated every 6 to 14 minutes for hours at a time. (Univ. of Rhode Island)
Low-frequency thumps by Minke Whales in West Indies
(10x normal speed/10 sec):
For years researchers recording in the North Pacific Ocean heard a distinctive “boing” sound, but were unsure which animal created it. The minke whale proved to be the species responsible for the sound, which is brief pulse at 1.3 kHz, followed immediately by a 1.4-kHz call that will last approximately 2.5 seconds, changing frequency slightly during the duration of the sound. (Univ. of Rhode Island)
Boing vocalization from minke whales in North Pacific Ocean: