Both charming and confusing (to me), the WHALE project features two artists (or is it musicians?) singing to and with beluga whales using a homemade underwater sound system while they all float on or in Hudson Bay. There’s a July 10, 2013 news item about the project on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news website,
What began as an interest in aquatic culture for Laura Magnusson and Kaoru Ryan Klatt has turned into a multi-year experimental project that brings art to the marine mammals.
Since 2011, Magnusson and Klatt have been taking a boat onto the Churchill River, which flows into Hudson Bay, with a home-made underwater sound system.
Last week, the pair began a 75-day expedition that involves travelling aboard a special “sculptural sea vessel” to “build a sustained but non-invasive presence to foster bonds between humans and whales,” according to the project’s website.
Ten other musicians and interdisciplinary artists are joining Klatt and Magnusson to perform new works they’ve created specifically for the whales.
The latest expedition will be the focus of Becoming Beluga, a feature film that Klatt is directing.
Magnusson and Klatt are also testing a high-tech “bionic whale suit” that would enable the wearer to swim and communicate like a beluga whale.
Klatt has produced a number of WHALE videos including this one (Note: This not a slick production nor were any of the others I viewed on YouTube),
In addition to not being slick, there’s a quirky quality to this project video that I find charming and interesting.
My curiosity aroused, I also visited Magnusson’s and Klatt’s WHALE website and found this project description,
WHALE is an interdisciplinary art group comprised of Winnipeg-based artists Kaoru Ryan Klatt and Laura Magnusson. Their vision is to expand art and culture beyond human boundaries to non-human beings. Since 2011, they have been traveling to the northern edge of Manitoba, Canada to forge connections with thousands of beluga whales. From a canoe on the Churchill River, they have collaborated with these whales through sound, movement, and performative action. Now, aboard the SSV Cetus – a specially crafted sculptural sea vessel – they will embark on a 75-day art expedition throughout the Churchill River estuary, working to build a sustained but non-invasive presence to foster bonds between humans and whales. This undertaking – Becoming Beluga – is the culmination of a three-year integrated arts project with the belugas of this region, taking place between July 2 and September 14, 2013.
While the word ‘artist’ suggests visual arts rather than musical arts what I find a little more confounding is that this is not being described an art/science or art/technology project as these artists are clearly developing technology with their underwater sound system, sculptural sea vessel, and bionic whale suit. In any event, I wish them good luck with WHALE and their Becoming Beluga film.
In a somewhat related matter and for those interested in soundscapes and the ocean (in Antarctica), there is some research from Oregon State University which claims that melting icebergs make a huge din. From a July 11, 2013 news item on phys.org,
There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers.
Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise.
The Oregon State University July 10, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, provides more detail (Note: A link has been removed),
A team led by Oregon State University (OSU) researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises.
“During one hour-long period, we documented that the sound energy released by the iceberg disintegrating was equivalent to the sound that would be created by a few hundred supertankers over the same period,” said Robert Dziak, a marine geologist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., and lead author on the study. [emphasis mine]
“This wasn’t from the iceberg scraping the bottom,” he added. “It was from its rapid disintegration as the berg melted and broke apart. We call the sounds ‘icequakes’ because the process and ensuing sounds are much like those produced by earthquakes.”
I encourage anyone who’s interested to read the entire news release (apparently the researchers were getting images of their iceberg from the International Space Station) and/or the team’s published research paper,
Robert P. Dziak, Matthew J. Fowler, Haruyoshi Matsumoto, DelWayne R. Bohnenstiehl, Minkyu Park, Kyle Warren, and Won Sang Lee. 2013. Life and death sounds of Iceberg A53a. Oceanography 26(2), http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2013.20.