Skip to main content

Episode 1104: Mystery of the Humpback Whale Song

Each year, approximately half of the North Pacific humpback whale population migrates roughly three thousand miles from its feeding grounds in Southeastern Alaska to its breeding grounds in Hawaiʻi. While there, the male humpbacks perform their elaborate and haunting song. But what does it mean? And what is the purpose of this beautiful display?

To find out, scientists are conducting research on the leeward side of Maui, inside the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. They collect data on the amplitude of an individual's song, as well as his size and testosterone levels, to determine if there is a correlation between the quality of the song and the fitness of an individual whale. The scientists are also deploying acoustic suction cup tags on humpback whales to learn how the animals spend their time throughout the day.


Meet the experts featured in this episode.

Image Credits

Changing Seas would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who kindly allowed their footage, images and other media to be used in this production:

Adam A. Pack, Ph.D.
The Dolphin Institute

Marc Lammers, Ph.D.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Ed Lyman
Jason Moore
Jeff Pantukhoff
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
NOAA Permit Numbers:
NOAA MMHSRP Permit Numbers:

Robin W. Baird
Cascadia Research
MMPA/ESA Permit No. 15330

NOAA Fisheries/Tim Cole

All other footage of humpback whales & whale research taken under the authority of NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 19655.

Special Thanks:

D. Ka’au Abraham

Captains and Crew
R/V Koholā

Sheri Rahman

Funding for this episode of Changing Seas was provided by:

Filer image
Filer image
Filer image
Filer image