North

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

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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

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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, whalefacts.org

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