Why Do Humpbacks Use Sound Footprints?

Why do Humpbacks use sound footprints? The main sense for our whales is sound and every aspect of their day to day lives are affected by sound and how they use it. Today was a perfect lesson on why do Humpbacks use found footprints as we observed many pods gathering in the resting grounds. Our first interactions were with mother and calves keeping a low profile next to the ships waiting to pickup cargo. The ships anchors are down and the whales are safe to rest around them, the reason why they choose to do so is all about sound footprints. The ships will each have generators running for power along with the general noise of movement onboard which will echo out into the surrounding environment creating a sound footprint. The mothers and calves especially like to rest in these areas because the noise created by the vessels masks any noise or communication between mother and calf hiding them from other whales and possible predators.

The next band of Humpback Whales moving into the resting grounds had much more energy and with a ship approaching the area all pods began to communicate. Breaching, pec slapping and fluke slapping unfolded all around us as the mother whales took the opportunity to teach the calves the importance of sound. The approaching ship would only be a danger for any whales resting directly in its path and the whales have learnt over the years to call out loudly when a ship is approaching to wake everyone up and move out of the shipping channel they may have been resting in. One pod in particular today who were travelling with a male escort were not fazed at all by the passing ship and happily continued their surface activity right up to when the ship passed closely. It is always fantastic to see how these smart whales have learnt to use what is in the environment to their advantage and adapt, no wonder they are thriving!

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