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whale songs Archives | Ocean Alliance

Roger Payne is Dedicating His 80th Year to Changing the Fate of Our Oceans

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

50 years ago when I first became concerned about their fate, whales were being hastened towards extinction by whaling. There was no Save-the-Whales movement; in fact, whales seldom crossed anyone’s mind.

 When Scott McVay and I discovered the powerfully lovely songs of humpback whales I saw them as a way to capture the world’s interest in the plight of whales, and I put all of my efforts into stopping the criminal act that turned whales into cat food and cosmetics.

As time passed the movement succeeded in greatly reducing whaling. But a new threat to whales soon emerged that was potentially worse than whaling: ocean pollution. It was caused by the compounds we synthesize to enjoy “better living” through chemistry.

I later realized that it was not pollution alone but many other interconnecting, interacting, positive feedback loops that threatened whales plus many other ocean species—for example: the buildup of CO2 creates ocean acidification which destroys plankton.

In short, my life has carried me from the specific to the general, and what started as an effort to stop a single fatal force from destroying a species has become an effort to stop dozens of forces from destroying life in all its forms, both in the ocean and on the land.

Thanks to global warming and ocean acidification there has never been a more urgent need for action—never a greater need to put all of our time, effort and treasure into changing the way that we and our fellow humans conduct our lives. Life on Earth and civilization as we know it hang in the balance.

In spite of how scary this situation is it also has a hugely positive side: for it offers our generation the most singular opportunity for greatness ever offered to any generation in history. If we seize that opportunity and act we will be admired and loved above all future generations.

Please join me in pledging to dedicate all of our efforts in the next decade to working to change the fate of the oceans.

Each month in this my 80th year I will announce another of my goals and dreams, and describe why I think it is important to whales, to the ocean, and to all life. I will also describe ways in which you can help achieve that dream.

My dream for January comes from what I consider to be the most consequential scientific discovery of the past 100 years—the slow realization that all species are interdependent. This means that the future of each species depends on the future of a great many other species. From this simple natural law we see that it is not possible to save just a single species, unless we also protect the lives of the hundreds of species on which that species’ life depends.

From this it follows that the welfare of some non-human species is as important to the survival of humans as it is to the survival of the non-human species. If we fail to recognize that fact we will have no future—at least none that you or I would care to experience.

My January wish, therefore, is to create a Declaration of Interdependence for nations to ratify. There have been several such declarations previously but none that focused strongly enough on the health of the ocean and on non-human species. I will post a draft of such a declaration on my birthday so you can suggest changes before we send it out in its final form. Ever since 1776 we in America have valued independence; what we must now learn to value even more is our interdependence with the rest of life. It is our only way to reach the future.

– Dr. Roger Payne, President and Founder of Ocean Alliance

Roger Payne Makes a Splash on NPR

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Our phone lines lit up over the holiday break as listeners of NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported to us that “Roger Payne was on the radio right now!” The piece was called “How Pop Music Helped Save the Whales” and it was originally produced by Michael May and Studio 360, but it was rebroadcast on “All Things Considered” just in time for the evening commute. In the piece Roger talks about how his discovery with Scott McVay that humpback whales sing songs became a part of the Save the Whale movement when the world was looking for meaning and inspiration, and Judy Collins talks about the first time she met Roger, when he handed her a tape containing his new discovery.

To our surprise the piece was picked up and shared by conservation groups and whale lovers all over social media and once again people were talking about whale songs. We hope they keep talking.

New CD Release – “Voyages of the Odyssey: Acoustic Adventures”

By | Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

This holiday season our whale adoption packages are being revamped with new treats for your whale lover. We’re excited to announce the release of a new sound recording called “Voyages of the Odyssey: Acoustic Adventures,” the first since “Songs of the Humpback Whale” and “Deep Voices,” which includes humpback whale songs recorded in the Seychelles during the Voyage of the Odyssey 2000-2005, plus melon-headed whales, pseudorcas (false killer whales), and sperm whales recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. This new cd will be included in all whale adoption packages. The new adoption packages will be ready for ordering next week, so stay tuned and #GoGreenBuyBlue!

The Acoustic World of Whales in the Gulf

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

When the RV Odyssey embarked on her five-year journey The Voyage of the Odyssey from 2000-2005 to study the health of the world’s oceans, the first mate was a young naturalist the crew had met leading kayaking tours in Alaska named Josh Jones. Fourteen years later Josh finds himself back on the Odyssey, this time as a researcher from Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Acoustic Lab, with the task of training the Operation Toxic Gulf crew on the new acoustic gear that allows us to listen to and track whales. In this new video Josh explains the goal of his work listening to whales:

The Whale Guitar: Six-String Activism

By | Education, Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

Whales are a species of sound. They live in a world of sound, communicate through sound, and captured the world’s attention when Roger Payne and Scott McVay discovered that they sing songs. Roger, in addition to being a biologist, is also a musician, and it became his life’s work to share their songs and inspire a passion to protect them.

Whale Guitar scrimshawIt’s no surprise then that artists and musicians, poets and composers are drawn to whales. This is how the Whale Guitar came to be. Read More

1978 Whale Film Featuring Roger Payne and Sylvia Earle Found in England

By | mar14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Recently Iain Kerr was contacted by a senior radio producer at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol England named Sarah Blunt. She had been contacted by a gentleman named Harry Espley who lives an hour or so south of Liverpool in a town called Tattenhall.

Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsHarry had come by an original copy of a 16mm film made by Anglia TV in 1978.  The film, “World of Survival: Humpbacks–the Gentle Giants” was one of the first whale films ever made. It featured Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne, Katie Payne and Sylvia Earle, and was shot by Al Giddings and Chuck Nicklin.  When Al (who later shot the IMAX film “Whales” with Roger) got into the water with Sylvia and Chuck to shoot the underwater segments of the film they had no idea if they would become a whale snack.

Roger remembers, “This was my first time working with the unequaled cameraman Al Giddings and Her Deepness Sylvia Earle.  It was a great expedition into the unknown for all. This was an early example of photographers working with scientists.  Al Giddings saw details of humpback whale behavior that no one had seen before.”

Harry explained he used to play the film at local events to inspire and engage people with the world of whales. When he had reached the point where the film had been sitting for a few years he contacted Sarah, who in turn contacted Iain with news of the find.  Iain asked John Atkinson, our problem solver, to work with Harry to ship the film to the Gloucester.

World of Survival: Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsWe are very excited to have this film and deeply grateful to Harry for saving this small piece of whale history (and to Sarah for introducing Harry to us). The goal now is to get the film digitized so that it can be played again and seen by a larger audience of whale lovers.

We are looking for someone who can help us transfer the 16 mm film to a digital form either through a grant or contribution. If you or someone you know works for a company with these capabilities please contact Iain Kerr at kerr@whale.org. We look forward to sharing this film with you!

 

Thank You Pete Seeger

By | Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

Pete Seeger At 89 AlbumToday we say good-bye to musical and environmental icon Pete Seeger. Roger Payne spent time with Seeger sailing on his boat the Clearwater on the Hudson River. The sloop was symbolic of the fight and the right for clean water in the Hudson and around the world. In 1970, after hearing Roger’s recording Songs of the Humpback Whale, Seeger wrote “Song of the World’s Last Whale,” but the song wasn’t recorded until 2007 when he released the album At 89 which went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. The lyrics are shockingly current:

I heard the song
Of the world’s last whale
As I rocked in the moonlight
And reefed the sail

It’ll happen to you
Also without fail
If it happens to me
Sang the world’s last whale

It was down off Bermuda
Early last spring
Near an underwater mountain
Where the humpbacks sing

I lowered the microphone
About a quarter mile down
Switched on the recorder
Let the tape spin around

I didn’t just hear grunting
I didn’t just hear squeaks
I didn’t just hear bellows
I didn’t just hear shrieks

It was the musical singing
And the passionate wail
That came from the heart
Of the world’s last whale

Down in the Antarctic
There, the harpoons wait
But it’s up on the land
You decide my fate

In London town
They’ll be telling the tale
If it’s life or death
For the world’s last whale

So here’s a little test
To see how you feel
Here’s a little test
For this age of the automobile

If we can save
Our singers up in the sea
Perhaps there’s a chance
To save you and me

I heard the song
Of the world’s last whale
As I rocked in the moonlight
And reefed the sail

It’ll happen to you
Also without fail
If it happens to me
Sang the world’s last whale

“My job,” Seeger said, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.” Peter Seeger’s songs were not for him, they were for the world to sing, especially the children.