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52 Hertz Whale

Traveling up and down the California coast, sometimes within earshot of biologists’ instruments, but equally as often not, swims a mysterious mammal. The 52 Hertz Whale is a peculiar creature; it is an anomaly plopped down across the taxonomic framework established by human experts. Whales, all whales, call into the depths at low frequencies, somewhere between 10 and 39 hertz. Their calls alert them to the presence of food, aid in defining their spatial surroundings, and enable communication between individuals and groups. But this whale and its song are different. The 52 Hertz Whale produces its idiosyncratic namesake tones out there beneath the waves, but it travels alone and presumably has only the ocean itself as audience. 

Admittedly, this behavior is not the norm but its interpretation by experts underscores the human tendency to pathologize difference. Scientists speculate, due to its unorthodox song, that the whale could be malformed or suffering from some other morphological aberration. Maybe though, the experts have it all wrong. Maybe it intentionally avoids the information-seins of those scientists, maybe its shadowy-ness is by design, maybe the 52 Hertz Whale isn’t lonely at all, and maybe, just maybe, the 52 Hertz Whale just prefers being the 52 Hertz Whale.

All Works © Christopher Knowles 2012—’24

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