Humans Communicate with a Humpback Whale – Video

Floating silently in the serene waters of Frederick Sound, Alaska, a research vessel carried a team of scientists into the heart of humpback whale territory. Josie Hubbard, an animal behaviourist and PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis, was aboard this vessel, experiencing her first close encounter with these majestic creatures.

The vessel adhered to strict regulations, ceasing all movement hundreds of meters from the whales, creating a silent stage for an unprecedented interaction.


In 2021, this team, part of a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) initiative, sought to unravel the complexities of humpback whale communication. Below deck, Brenda McCowan orchestrated a groundbreaking moment by broadcasting a unique humpback greeting—known as a “whup” or “throp”—through an underwater speaker.

This initiative wasn’t merely an exercise in sound transmission but a bid to forge a novel form of interspecies dialogue.

Their efforts were met with a remarkable response when a humpback, affectionately named Twain, approached the vessel, captivated by the sounds emanating from below. Twain, a 38-year-old humpback, not only approached but engaged, circling the boat and mirroring the sounds in a 20-minute display of curiosity and communication.

This encounter wasn’t just a fleeting moment of wonder for Hubbard and her colleagues. It symbolized a potential gateway to understanding non-human intelligence, marking a historic moment in human-animal communication.

Whales, long revered for their complex vocalizations and social behaviours, offered a glimpse into their world, a world where sound reigns supreme, enabling them to connect, navigate, and express themselves in the ocean’s vast expanse.

Whales, with their sophisticated behaviours, have always resonated with humanity. They exhibit cooperation, empathy, and a capacity for learning and play that mirrors our own social structures. Yet, their primary sensory experience, rooted in sound, offers a stark contrast to our visually dominated perception, especially in the deep ocean’s lightless depths where sound travels unfettered.

Learn more in the report below:

This remarkable dialogue between humans and a humpback whale stands as a testament to our shared curiosity and the possibilities that emerge when we listen intently to the natural world, stepping into a conversation centuries in the making.

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