1. It’s named “52-Hertz” because that is the frequency at which it sings. Science doesn’t know which species of whale our 52-Hertz belongs to.
The dear 52-Hertz is one of a kind. It could be the “last of a previously unknown species of baleen whale”; it could be “malformed, or maybe a rare hybrid — perhaps a blue whale and fin whale cross.”
There is no clear photo evidence of 52-Hertz, which makes identifying it even more difficult.
Click here to listen to 52-Hertz (sped up 10 times). Most whales of its species create sounds between 15 and 20 hertz, which are incredibly and impossibly deep noises. The difference between the two types of sounds results in any nearby whales being unable to hear 52-Hertz’s call at all.
3. A team of marine researchers tracked its movements for about a decade.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod recorded and tracked frequencies of whale sounds coming from the North Pacific using hydrophones (which were originally “used by the Navy to monitor enemy submarines”). The travel pattern of the 52-Hertz whale somewhat matches that of the grey whale.
In an article from the New York Times in 2004, Kate Stafford, a researcher at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, indicated that nothing was wrong with the whale’s health because they were able to track it for so many years in a harsh environment (and even detect that its voice deepened over the timeframe, implying that it was maturing).
The problem isn’t the health of 52-Hertz; it’s that no one can hear him.
“He’s saying, ‘Hey I’m out here,’” Stafford said. “Well, nobody is phoning home.”
People are fascinated by this whale’s sad story. A documentary titled “Finding 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale in the World” of course has a Facebook page and is scheduled to premiere this year, according to IMDB. Mixtapes are made in its honor.
There’s no telling if 52-Hertz is actually lonely. Maybe we’re all painting very human emotions onto a whale who is just swimming and living its life normally. But maybe it keeps singing in order to try and find just one buddy.