You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Ocean Alliance’s history of studying whales

Sperm whales.

Sperm whales

55 to 65 feet long, up to 50 tons; usually dark gray or black.

For one of the deepest-diving whales, descending as far as 2 miles, Alliance chief executive Iain Kerr developed a tracking process using a multibeam scanning sonar. This technique enables researchers to calculate the whale's rate of descent, ascent, maximum dive depth, bearing, and speed, creating a three-dimensional dive diagram.

Humpback whales

Continue reading below

40 to 60 feet, up to 40 tons; dark gray or black with white patches on stomach.

In 1967, alliance founder Roger Payne, working with Scott McVay, realized that the humpback’s song was made up of fixed rhythmic patterns of repeated sounds. Ocean Alliance has gathered songs from humpback populations throughout the world, amassing more than 1,500 recordings from 14 geographic regions.

Right whales

50 feet, up to 60 tons; dark gray/black.

For 40 years, Ocean Alliance has studied a population of rights — the most endangered of the great whales — that uses the bays of Argentina’s Valdés Peninsula as a nursery. It is believed to be the longest continuous study of any great whale.

SOURCES: Ocean Alliance,

Loading comments...
Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
Please enter a valid email will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of