Monday, April 22, 2013

The whales came again last night

The whales came again last night
bumping up against the hull, gurgling
at the through-holes, rocking gently rocking. Then
they began to sing--sounds of damp fingers
trailing mouths of goblets, slip-stick crystal music,
pure ethereal tones knitting voices in the night.

I dreamed we'd seen them singing, these after-
midnight whales; they were oddly jointed
giants, skins crayon-coloured in aquamarines
and rusty reds. In my dream
in the waking world, no one cared what
we had seen.  They went about their daily
lives, pumping gas and annotating
endnotes. But we had heard the whales sing.

Several times in the middle of the night, while we were on the boat in northern British Columbia last summer, we were wakened by a peculiar, ethereal singing, vibrating through the hull. It was often accompanied by a gentle rocking or bouncing in the water around us.  What we heard corresponds to no known whale songs, though portions of the pitch approach the songs of Southern Killer Whales, while the slow rhythms of what we heard resemble humpback songs,  albeit at a much higher pitch. I report on a dream I really did have here. We still do not know what creature we were hearing, but are profoundly attached to the idea that we've heard the whales singing. For more on that trip, see

Images are from Khutze Inlet, where we first heard the singing, and Bolin Bay, where we heard it again. The last image was taken not far from Malcolm Island, looking towards the mainland.

To hear recordings of various whale vocalizations, see

Why do crystal glasses give off a sound when you rub them with a wet finger?  It has everything to do with vibration and what is called the "slip-stick" phenomenon. See

Finally, just for the pure pleasure and virtuosity of it, see Brian Engel play Mozart's Adagio in C Major for Glass Armonica:

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