Sunday, 12 June 2011
"SONGS OF THE HUMPBACK WHALE" DR. ROGER PAYNE (1991 cd liner notes)
NOTE FROM JEFF: These are the liner notes from the digitally re-mastered 1991 release of "Songs of the Humpback Whale." Dr. Payne's urgent plea for a vast human awakening before it's too late is even more urgent today, 20 years later, as the 'sci-fi' technologies of HAARP and 'technetronic' warfare are increasingly deployed. Not only are the whales under immense attack from astronomical levels of chemical toxicity, they are beseiged by electronic and magnetic disruptions affecting humans and all life. A vast amount of the damage is being conducted by the U.S. military, in particular the Navy, whose "war games", exercises, experiments, wastes, and weapons systems (of which HAARP is only one) make them the NUMBER ONE de facto enemy of all cetaceans. Ironically, Payne tells us that these original humpback song recordings, were done by Frank Watlington, using "an extraordinary array of deep-water microphones, part of a Cold War experiment of the U.S. Navy, costing tens of millions of dollars and now claimed by the sea..."
For more information on Dr. Payne's organization Ocean Alliance, their report on a five-year study of global ocean toxicity, and the their current mission, a return to the Gulf of Mexico to study the effects of the BP diaster there, go to
[download the executive summary of ocean toxicity survey]
And for leading-edge information on 'technetronic' warfare and the war against the cetaceans by the U.S. Navy, visit
“There are over 5 billion of us humans on this planet. We have a choice, either to be the greatest heroes in the history of life on Earth – remembered for longer (probably forever) than any other generation before for having made the effort and raised ourselves in time to heal the world around us, or we can be the greatest villains in the history of life on Earth – remembered for longer than any other generation before (and probably forever) for having sat on our hands and done nothing while the consequences of both our action and our inaction destroyed the natural world. This recording is offered in hopes that when you hear the whales you will take up the cause of life on Earth.”
Dr. Roger Payne, 1991
Dr. Roger Payne, who produced this recording while associated with the New York Zoological Society, has spent the last 35 years doing research in biological acoustics. His studies began while an undergraduate at Harvard University with work on the directional sensitivity of the ears of bats. He received his doctorate in biology from Cornell University for work demonstrating that owl can locate the position of their prey in complete darkness (well enough to strike it), simply by hearing it move. He has done equally important work on hearing in moths, discovering their ability to judge the direction of bat sonar and this evade capture. The common thread in all his work has been acoustics.
Dr. Payne has led over 100 expeditions to all oceans, studying every species of large whale in the wild. He pioneered many of the benign research techniques now used throughout the world to study free-swimming whales. He directs two long-term studies: one on the songs of the humpback whales; the other following the lives of over 1,000 individually recognizable southern right whales in Argentina (the longest continuous study of a population of known individual whales, based on natural markings, in existence). He has received numerous honours and awards, including a 5-year MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the so-called “Genius Award”), and has been knighted in the Netherlands for his work on the conservation of whales. When asked how he began studying whales, he replied:
“At the time I was a neurophysiologist at Tufts University and had never even seen a whale. I was in my laboratory one March night during a sleet storm when I heard through the local radio news that a dead whale had washed ashore on the beach. I drove out there. The sleet had turned to rain when I reached the place. Many people had come to see the whale earlier, but by the time I arrived there were only a few, and when I reached the tidal wrack where the whale lay, the beach was deserted.
It was a small whale, a porpoise of about 8 feet long, with lovely subtle curves glistening in the cold rain. It had been mutilated. Someone had hacked off its flukes for a souvenir. Two others had carved their initials deeply into its side and someone had stuck a cigar butt in its blowhole. I removed the cigar and stood there for a long time with feelings I cannot describe. Everybody has some such experience that affects them for life, probably several. That night was one of mine.
At some point my flashlight went out, but as the tide came in I could periodically see the graceful outline of the whale silhouetted against the white foam cast up by the waves. Although it was at that time more typical than not of what happens to whales when they encounter humans, that experience was the last straw, and I decided to use the first possible opportunity to learn enough about whales, so that I might have some effect on their fate.
I was extraordinarily lucky; the very first thing I happened to select for study about whales was the elaborate sound sequences produced by humpback whales during their breeding season. Working with Scott McVay, a pioneer in whale conservation, we discovered that the whales were actually repeating their elaborate, rhythmic sequences of sounds after several minutes. Any time an animal repeats itself in a rhythmic way, it can properly be said to be singing., whether it is a human, a bird, a frog or a cricket. Thus, the humpback whales' sequences were, properly, 'songs.'
They are different from the songs of other animals in several important ways: they are longer; they are repeated without any break between songs; whales change them all the time they sing them (so that at the end of about 5 years there is nothing left of the songs recorded 5 years earlier); and some songs may include rhyming endings on some of their phrases. These latter two fascinating discoveries were made by Katherine Payne (her work on rhyming being a joint study with Linda Guinee).
The fact that whales sing, along with the beauty of their songs, gave us a chance to change the way people perceived whales. Human musicians like Judy Collins and Paul Winter began to include the sounds of whales in their performances and compositions. Killing and eating a whale now became killing and eating a 'musician', and the “Save-the-Whales” movement was born, founded on a new perception: the whale as artist. Conservationists from all over the world began to get involved, and what they accomplished is one of the great success stories of the conservation movement."
At the start of the “Save-the-Whales” movement the whalers had already reduced to commercial extinction every species of large whale except the Minke whale. When this recording first came out in 1970, 33,000 whales were being killed each year. By 1990 the whalers were killing just 1% of that number. We had stopped 99% of the industry. In the process, other scientists like Sydney Holt, Justin Cooke, and William De La Mare had demonstrated before the International Whaling Commission (the international body which regulates whaling) the importance of applying an entirely new set of principles to the protection of whales. In doing so, they ensured that whaling would never be the same.
But the whales are far from safe – whaling may start again, and as they have survived into an age of high technology, whales now face threats which make harpoons seem minor.
Each year about 100,000 porpoises (which are also cetaceans, i.e., whales) have been drowning by accident in huge purse seine nets which are set for tuna. And each year it now appears that more whales and dolphins than are killed by purse seine nets and direct whaling combined are killed in drift nets – nets as long as 50 – 80 kilometers (30-50 miles) which hang from buoys at the surface of the water. Each day, 50,000 or more kilometers (30,000 or more miles) of drift nets are set in deep ocean, killing not only marketable and unmarketable fish, but whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, sea otters, sea turtles, and sea birds. Especially alarming are the so-called “ghost nets”- pieces of drift nets that break off and wander the seas, entangling everything in their path.
But even the wanton destruction of drift nets and ghost nets is minor compared to the destruction wreaked by tens of thousands of toxic substances which industrialized societies vent into the oceans. Of these, PCB's (compounds closely related to DDT) are known to constitute a major threat to marine life, owing to the fact that they are very soluble in fats, but almost insoluble in water, and there fore concentrate in living animal and plant tissues which contain fats and oils. PCB's have recently been found in porpoises in concentrations so high that some of the porpoise's tissues could, in theory, qualify them as swimming toxic dump sites, thus making them eligible for clean up as Super Fund sites. Some scientists believe that if only a small percentage of the PCB's now in use reach the seas they could bring extinction to all carnivourous marine mammals, including, of course, the whales and dolphins, and render inedible most species of commercially valuable fish.
To quote Roger Payne:
"It is critical that people recognize the danger to life on Earth itself, posed by the slow accumulation of toxic substances in the seas, and that we make the sacrifices in time and money necessary to prevent the further entrance into the seas of the most destructive of the toxic substances. If we do not, then this recording could become, in just a few years, the last cry from the last of the great whales, and humanity will be sentenced to live in the unimaginably boring of our creation...forever.
Forever is older than the universe itself. Losing a species, or an entire ocean of species, forever, is a more inexorable loss than any we can ever comprehend. It is one thing to lose your friend. It is another to lose all your friends, along with everything that ever gave you sanity, and the whale species of which they were a part, thereby losing your future as well.
We must stop deceiving ourselves and face squarely the fact that the things with which we are concerned, and on which most of the time and resources of our governments are spent, are trivial alongside problems like the destruction of the seas. Having faced this fact we must act. We must radically change the way we spend our time and energy – stop wasting our potential on the inconsequential things – and dedicate our lives instead to persuading our governments, by whatever means, that they must address the important problems facing humans, and spend, if necessary, all their time and our money on measures that will prevent the destruction of the rest of life on Earth.
The consequences of a failure are, by definition, infinitely worse than any costs of trying to succeed. Life has no time left for governments that cannot comprehend this urgent reality. It is not just governments, but we who must act now – the final hours of our species have arrived. If you and I continue to do nothing, we must face the harsh truth that we really have no intention of acting, will never act, and things really are hopeless. The only person who can deny this is you, yourself, by acting...NOW.”