The 'song' of the minke whale.

July 4, 2012

If you expect that all whale songs sound as beautiful as the melodic humpback then you are in for a surprise! Think of a group of grunting pigs and throw in some of the cast of Star Wars.....welcome to the bizarre vocal world of the dwarf minke whale. 

Dwarf minkes are perhaps the world's friendliest whale. They have an insatiable curiosity that regularly brings them within a few meters of divers/snorkelers with some encounters lasting up to 6 hours (the longest one on record was 10+ hours and involved 40 whales)!

This unique behaviour has sparked a well-regulated industry on the Great Barrier Reef which is now considered world's best practice for in-water whale encounters. 

Eye to Eye Marine Encounters pioneered these expeditions with scientists from the Minke Whale Project and together with help from our paying guests (who provide valuable photo/video records) have been conducting research on these little whales for the past 17 years.

One unique feature of this species is their acoustic repertoire. Unlike the alluring sonnets produced by some of the great whales, Dwarf minkes produce a series of grunts, belches and moans. One of their most very distinctive sounds involves 3 short pulses, followed by a slight upsweep (this mechanical noise has been dubbed the 'Star Wars' sound). Play the above clip to hear this.

These whales seem to form 'fluid pods' which means that they don’t belong to any particular group but instead mix and match (as well as fly solo) over time. Such open relationships mean that even during an interaction with us there is a continual flux of animals joining and leaving the group, which makes for a lot of vocal communication between individuals.

At the moment we are still trying to get a understand the behavior and migration patterns of Dwarf minke whales (who seem to come to our warm tropical waters to mate and give birth) but in the future we hope to further explore their unusual vocalizations in order to find out what all this chatter is really about. 

To join a Swim With Whale Expedition this June/July go to:

Locations visited

Lizard Island


Whales, Dolphins & Seals 1 species
Northern Minke Whale, Dwarf Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) 1



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