The songs of humpback whales have now left our solar system.
In 1977 NASA launched the Voyager I and II spacecrafts to explore our solar system and beyond. Scientist now believe they have evidence that Voyager I has left our solar system and entered interstellar space.
Roger’s friends Carl Sagan and wife Ann Druyan compiled the sounds and messages that would be included on Voyager’s 12-inch gold-plated records. Carl Sagan called Voyager “a bottle cast into a cosmic ocean.” The records contain human greetings in sixty-one languages, chanting, sounds of nature, and music, including the song of a humpback whale. The song was recorded by Roger and Katy Payne off Bermuda on April 13, 1970.
What do these recordings say to their finders about planet Earth and the human species?
“It tells another civilization that by the time we sent this message, we had begun to recognize some other species besides our own enough to give it at least a little bit of room on board. If we had sent a recording with the songs of tens of other species and only one sound of human voices sending greetings it would have been an even prouder boast as to where it is we see ourselves in the scheme of things.”
For Roger the Voyager spacecrafts remain a wakeup call for humans, as to where we stand in the grand scheme of things:
“Ours is nevertheless just a bit part—a little like the messenger who runs in and shouts, ‘The city’s on fire’—important for moving along the plot but certainly not the lead. If we can learn to stop upstaging the main act (which is nature) and start to use human ingenuity to keep the earth alive rather than just to make our lives easier—then the show can go on, the earth can recover, the great beasts can endure, and we will not have to face the prospect of dying of a great loneliness of spirit.”
(Excerpts from Among Whales by Roger Payne)