What’s New

Mystery Sounds

Imagine hearing a heartbeat in the ocean … Over the years, we have spent thousands of hours listening to humpback whales on their breeding grounds. Most of the listening has involved whale song – where males pump out a complex sequence of sounds and phrases that they repeat – while updating and changing them over geographical space and time. Squeals, screams, whistles, burps, grunts and throbs are not uncommon either and are usually produced in the midst of male competition over females. Of course their spectacular breaches and acrobatic behaviors also produce distinctive percussive sounds.

But, in the last ten years, we have sporadically and opportunistically recorded sounds that are categorically different from all of these other sounds. Imagine hearing a heartbeat in the ocean – that is the easiest way to describe these sounds without playing them for you. The sounds are so subtle that they are only heard under the best of conditions – when the ocean is at its quietest. Even then, you question whether you actually heard something or not. It’s that kind of sound.

Over the last decade, we have been able to measure these very low frequency sounds and found that they fall within the 40Hz range (the lowest range of human hearing is 20Hz). So they are just above our hearing but compared to the other sounds humpbacks make (in the 1000-4000Hz range), they are just barely audible – and easily masked by boats, waves, or the background buzz of the oceans.

Although our first recognition of this sound was in 2005, it wasn’t until 2013 that we became convinced that humpback whales were actually making these mystery sounds. On one extraordinarily quiet morning, a male-female pair of adults spent about half an hour circling our stationary research boat, and left us with a very high quality example of these sounds. It was then we decided to go public and report the presence of these sounds in a science journal to encourage future discovery and exploration.

The use of low frequency sounds is common in large whales and other land animals, such as elephants, which use infrasounds (sounds below human hearing) for communication over long distances. So it is not a huge stretch that humpbacks would be making them too.

What lies ahead? The next step is to verify that the whales (and not some other coincidental sound source in the ocean) are producing the sounds; and, if part of the repertoire of this species, to decipher the role they play in humpback whale societies. Are males or females making these sounds? Are the sounds related to reproduction? Listen to the sounds here!

Whale Tales 2016 Sponsorships Are Announced!

Individual Sponsorship Packages

Whale Tales is right around the corner and we are excited to announce our 2016 sponsorship opportunities! Sponsors will receive several exciting opportunities including invitations to private receptions, early registration for whale watches, and so much more! Click the link above to review our 10th anniversary sponsorships.

Mahalo! John Cruz Benefit Raises Nearly $30,000 for Whale Trust

Doug and John

Over 50 local businesses and artists contributed to a special evening under the stars with John Cruz that helped raise nearly $30,000 for Whale Trust’s research and education programs. This intimate evening for 120 guests featured memorable musical performances by Sierra Carrere, John Cruz and special guest drummer, Mick Fleetwood; a silent and live auction, a fabulous farm to table dinner provided by Lumeria Maui and wines from the private reserve collection of Mick Fleetwood on the beautiful Lumeria Maui grounds.


Thank you to everyone – our sponsors, local businesses, guests, and volunteers for helping us to make this an evening none of us will soon forget. Special thanks to SAS – Sandi Stoner, Sandra Florence, and Ann Jones – and our MC for the night – Tim Garcia — for all of their hard work!

Save the Date! Whale Tales 2016 Dates Announced

For our ten-year anniversary, we are returning to our roots and holding the next annual Whale Tales at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Whale Tales will be held during Presidents’ Day weekend from February 12th – February 15th, 2016.

Seeking Volunteers! Whale Tales Planning Committee

If you are interested in becoming more involved in the planning of Whale Tales, please contact Meagan Jones at mjones [at] whaletrust [dot] org for more information on how you can join our 2016 Planning Committee. We need help with sponsorships, fundraising and procurement, volunteers, exhibitors, receptions, education, and production and logistics committee. Applications are due by August 1, 2016.

Help us Raise $20,000 to Replace Our Two Aging Boat Engines (2001)

Whale Trust is currently trying to raise $20,000 to replace our two aging and nearly dead boat engines. Last year, we invested in the purchase of a 2001 Glacier Bay catamaran to help with our research in Maui. However, the boat came with two 2001 engines that need to be replaced. Without a boat and engines that safely transport you to and from the harbor, there is little research that can be done! If you would like more information on how you can join this campaign, please contact Meagan at mjones [at] whaletrust [dot] org or donate today!

Whale Tales 2015 Raises Nearly $70,000 for Whale Research in Hawaii

Whale Trust Maui, Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Disentanglement Program, Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, Center for Whale Studies, and Hawaii Whale Research Foundation thank everyone for supporting whale research and education in Hawaii! Thanks to our many sponsors and participants we raised over $67,000 for whale research in Hawaii.

New Scientific Paper Published 

For the past three years, Whale Trust has been working with researchers in Mexico, Japan and the Philippines to track how humpback song changes over space and time. This summer, Jim Darling published his preliminary findings in the journal Aquatic Biology. Click here to read the paper and see what we discovered!

Flip Nicklin Talks Story in Alert Diver 

In addition to being one of the great marine mammal photographers, Flip Nicklin is a fantastic storyteller. Anyone who has had the pleasure to meet him or attend one of his talks knows he has a way with words that put you right in the center of the action. Check out this article in Alert Diver and learn all about how Flip began his odyssey and what it’s like to spend life among whales.

Whale Trust Maui Research Team Debuts Drone

This winter, the Whale Trust Maui research team debuted our new research drone! While still in prototype stages, the new drone teases many new research techniques including measuring whales and capturing extended aerial footage of whale interactions. We are currently working on the next model for this upcoming whale season and are excited to see what the future holds!