Beluga whales are one of the most curious underwater animals ever. They are quirky, friendly, and very adorable. Often you will see that they will come up to the boats and seek the people’s attention. This is because they are a big attention seeker. They want people to look at them and praise their beauty and do other fun and attention-seeking things.
Not only are the beluga whales looking for your attention, but they constantly observe humans and pick on the things we do. This means they look at the behavior, the way we talk, and other items and try to mimic it. One beluga whale who succeeded in mimicking the way humans talk is Noc. Hence, here is everything you need to know about Noc and how he is now trying his best to talk to humans.
Who is Noc?
Almost six beluga whales were caught between the years 1977 and 1980. Among these six whales, one of them was Noc. Noc was a two-year-old male who was taken into captivity after getting bit by insects called no-see-ums. Noc lived thereafter his entire life in captivity along with the humans who trained him; he ended up being deployed to Navy surveillance camps and other programs.
My personal view is that Whales should not be held in captivity. When we look at animals that are not only extremely intelligent but also their compassion towards each other, their social skill to live in packs all this is hard to respect when holding a whale captive. Analysis of the death rates also indicates that Beluga whales are dying at a significantly younger age than Belugas who are living in the wild. Despite all this, I wanted to write about the fascinating learnings from Noc anyways because it would just be a waste to not make use of what they learned through Noc about this amazing species.
Noc and his Efforts to Speak:
Noc had interactions with humans every day. The trainer would come to him, and they would talk to him, feed him and also play with him. Noc would observe the people around him and listen to their sounds. Soon it was seen that Noc also started making sounds very similar to the sounds made by humans. At first, no one understood the source of this mysterious sound. According to the trainers, it felt like two people were talking at a distance. For a very long time, the trainers and the people who worked there could not understand the sound.
However, after one year, this mystery was solved. A group of trainers was diving and training outside the Noc’s enclosure. They again heard the sound, and it felt like someone was saying, “get out.” After this, the trainers observed Noc and found out it was Noc who was making all these sounds.
If you hear the recording of Noc speaking, it almost feels like a drunk man is speaking in gibberish. Previously it was seen that the whales have been trying to mimic the sound of humans, but Noc was the first to do it. Noc understood the acoustic spectrum and the rhythm of human sound and mimicked it perfectly. Noc did all of this without any training or education. It was a spontaneous attempt that was just done by observation. Some might think it is a fluke, but Noc did not do this one time; he can easily make these sounds repeatedly.
How did Noc make these sounds?
The acoustic features of human and whales sound are very different. The octave of the whale’s and human sounds also vary a lot. However, when the researchers recorded the sound of Noc, they found that the acoustic features of this sound were very similar to that of human sound. This means that Noc was able to mold his sound and make an entirely new sound.
Whales generally produce their sounds by sending the air into the nasal tract and from them to their phonic lips. They also have vibrating muscular folds that behave like the voice box. the air enters these folds and goes to the vestibular sacs from which the whale sounds are produced. But Noc made it a point to put extra pressure on the air when they came in the nasal pathway, producing more low- and high-pitched sounds.
Noc did all this involuntary and by observing people, so what if the belugas are trained to do this? Is there a chance that they might start talking like humans? Dolphins and whales are known to be one of the most intelligent species of humans, and there might be a possibility that if appropriately trained, they might also start talking like humans.
There have been a lot of instances that have shown that animals take a lot of interest in humans. One of the examples is Noc, the beluga whale who started talking like humans. So if humans build a positive relationship with the animals, there are chances that they learn a lot more things from us.
Recommended read about NOC from the Smithsonian Institute