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Beluga Calls

This recording showcases some of the many variations of beluga whale calls


Beluga Whale Mythology

From The Interspecies newsletter


The Icelandic historian of whaling Ole Lindquist has written of the journey of a German Monk, Adam of Bremen, in the year 1074 AD. While Adam traveled through Finland and Karelia, he wrote this in his journal:

"All People in the northern countries are Christian, except those who migrate along the sea coast near the Polar ice. It is said that that they have great wisdom and that they use magic to communicate with one another even when they are far apart in the world. In addition, they sing songs with powerful words in a murmuring voice to persuade great whales to come close to shore. These people know many things firsthand, which the Bible tells us are the talents of wizards."

Lindquist then speculates that the Latin verb 'murmoro' is best translated into Adam’s German as 'murmeln', which describes a form of overtone singing still practiced today in Lappland. The whales in question are undoubtedly belugas, who still inhabit the White Sea in northern Karelia. In this 6000 year old petroglyph from the White Sea, observe a woman shaman, perhaps underwater, playing sticks to communicate with a beluga whale. The image reflects a myth told all across the Arctic, of the shaman who gives birth to a whale. To read more about this and other Finno-Ugric petroglyphs, click the image.

beluga shamanThere are researchers working today on the White Sea who theorize that belugas have a language. The research program is directed by the dean of Russian marine mammal science, Vsevolod Belkovich. He employs linguistics, underwater-projected video (at least once, of Caspar the Friendly Ghost, among other notable subjects), and even telepathy to engage these skittish animals.

Belugas were once common in several European Rivers, as well as off New England. They are now endangered throughout most of their reduced range, and are dying off at an alarming rate, primarily from chemical pollution and native overhunting. Yet as recently as 1999, A Russian company slaughtered several hundred belugas in Western Siberia and shipped the meat to Japan. Fortunately it was ceased at the border by agents for the CITES Convention.

The human species seems to be killing off the best hope we may ever have to communicate with another intelligent species here on planet Earth!

Stalin conducted an ethnic cleansing of the Karelian Finns in the 1930's, and then constructed several notorious Gulags in the off-limits White Sea area. Ironically, the resultant lack of a domestic human population also explains why the whale population remains intact today. The area is now opening up fast to development. During the summer of 1999 local fishermen caught two belugas for shipment to Canada, for display in an Oceanarium.

Those of us actively involved in protecting the White Sea belugas, are working with Finnish groups under the leadership of Rauno Lauhakangas to develop whalewatching in the area. Only by promoting a local economy that relies on a healthy environment, do these whales have any chance of surviving. has produced four expeditions to Karelia over the past ten years. During our last trip, we collaborated with the Russian team to create audio-based games to interact with the White Sea belugas. The basic idea is to record belugas conversing with one another, then modulate the calls using measurable parameters of pitch and duration. Our ultimate goal is to engage these whales.

The Beluga Game
The Beluga Spiral
Interspecies Art Projects