In December 1992, the naval air station’s hydrophones, previously used during the Cold War to monitor Soviet Subs, picked up an odd sound. The hydrophones turned noises into measurable graphs that came out of a spectrograph machine.
The reason the sound was considered odd was because one of the technicians believed it to be a blue whale due to it’s sound patterns but it came in at a 52 hertz frequency. That was more than double the regular frequencies from blue whale calls, which usually come in at 15-20 hertz.
This is how he got the nickname 52 Blue. Since whales use their calls to communicate with each other, find mates and find food, this whale’s call frequencies were unusual. As the scientists tracked him, he constantly called out but no whales answered. There seemed to be no other whales around him.
Sparking music albums and a film documentary, 52 Blue has developed a cult following of fans who feel that they can relate to him, feeling unique, unheard, and alone. Blue’s story especially connected to the deaf community and the heartbroken, sparking the nickname “The Loneliest Whale in the World.”
This article amused me because it reminded me that we as humans are symbolic thinkers and extremely empathetic. To connect yourself to a whale who can’t be heard because of the frequency of his call would be more relatable to someone whose voice had the frequency of a dog whistle. Even still, we at least have sign language to fall back on. That poor whale is stuck on his own. I found it extremely funny reading one person saying they wanted to hug the whale. Considering, from my knowledge, whales aren’t exactly huggers…nor should you try to hug a whale anyway. I trust natural selection will do it’s part there.
One example of abstract connections found between the whale and human connectivity is shown when the author starts discussing the documentary being filmed about the search to find 52 Blue. The author writes, “One of the themes of Zeman’s film is modern loneliness, that people are particularly responsive to the story of 52 in the digital era—when the Internet promises connectivity but can actually deliver us even deeper into isolation.”
“Modern loneliness” refers to us being more connected than ever before in a digital sphere but still having a yearning for physical connection. We feel less of a need to go out and see friends and family because we know what’s going on in their lives via the internet but this takes a toll on us. We are constantly putting ourselves out there. “Sending out our calls” by sharing our thoughts, photos and videos, details of our day, etc. but are the most physically disconnected generation yet. This is the connection I believe Zeman sees between us in the digital era and 52 Blue. We share our lives online because we want a connection but aren’t actually experiencing true connection. Still, like 52 Blue, this doesn’t stop us from sending our calls out.