The water the whale is in plays a big part, as this is the medium that carries the sound. Blue whales can produce sounds from 10-40 hz, and can produce it very loud; 155-180 decibels. This is louder than a rock show. It can be heard from a great distance, as water carries sound quicker and a bit more efficiently than air. I’m not sure on the exact estimated distance these sounds can go though.
Whales can communicate over huge distance – their songs can be heard over 100 miles away and more. It is possible that, with a “sound wave trapped in a deep water channel”, blue whales could sing to each other nearly from pole to pole (Antarctica to Aleutian Islands off Alaska), but this is now impossible due to current levels of noise pollution in the ocean.
100 km is not a huge distance compared to the distance whales were use to being able to communicate. until the very recent and abrupt Industrial Age of man. some whales are well over 200 years old.
I think Carl Sagan says it best. rough quote:
200 years ago the typical distance a whale could communicate across was around 10,000 km. They literaly had a Global Communications net, and could communicate with another whale anyplace in the world.
Today because of noise pollution, the distance is just a few hundred KM. we have literally cut the whales off from themselves.
(new research has shown the noise pollution also threaten fish populations – 2nd link) changes of whale behavior have also been observed that is likely a result of not being able to talk to one another anymore.
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