What whales are gossiping about…

Roger Rabbits
with Jim Bunny

Grunts, groans, snorts, barks, clicks, whistles and thwaps.

Onomatopoeia – words that phonetically represent the sound they describe – oink, meow, roar.

I love the word ‘thwap’ – the sound of striking or slapping something with a loud, heavy impact.

Thwap! That’s what ram raiders need – a good thwapping.

Whales thwap too, along with that chorus of other sounds mentioned…groan, snort, whistles, clicks etc. You see today we are all about whales and whale speak.

I’ve just watched Pommy comedian Josh Widdicombe’s wee vid on how to whale speak. Listen carefully and I will turn you into 40 metric tons of ‘thwapping’ sperm whale.

Josh says you make whale talk by “moving air between your mouth and lungs without letting any escape”.

“Hold your nose, close your mouth and say ‘Oh’ three times.”

There! Bet you are trying it.

Sitting in the privacy of your own home, curtains drawn and mimicking 15 metres of blubber. Weirdos!

Eavesdropping boffins 

We are talking whale because some nosey scientists have been eavesdropping on 60 sperm whales around the Eastern Caribbean, listening into their most personal and private communications.

How rude! Now, analysis of those recordings by The Dominica Sperm Whale Project has concluded whale speak is much more complex than previously thought.

The sperm whale can combine and modulate different clicks and rhythms to create an information-carrying ability similar to human language.

And so the boffins have developed a whale phonetic alphabet, a separate symbol for every distinguishable sound they make.

Okay – so what are the whales talking about...

Little Moby: “What are we doing today Mum?

Mum Whale: “(Yawn) The same as we’ve done every day for 20 million years – wallow around in the ocean, dodge some container ships, might even treat you to some Kentucky Fried Krill.”

Little Moby: “I ate four tonnes of tiny shrimp-like crustaceans yesterday. Krill overkrill.”

Mum Whale: “Don’t you mean overkill?”

Little Moby: “Let’s not quibble over sperm-antics Mum.”

Apparently different species of whale speak different languages.

Doesn’t surprise me because I don’t speak Swahili or Cantonese.

Free diving 

Mum Whale: “We might even do some free diving.”

Little Moby: “What’s that?”

Mum Whale: “You take a deep breath, put a finger over your blowhole and dive 3000 metres straight down, for an hour.

"And if you see a submarine on the way down, flick them a bird, or a fluke, cos they can only do 1000 metres. Losers!”

Little Moby: “I don’t think I am a sperm whale because that scares the w-hell out of me.”

Mum Whale: “Or we could drop into Kaikoura, do a few breaches, moon the whale watchers.

"I laugh so much my blubber jiggles.”

Then the whale speak gets serious...

Little Moby: “Mum, I think I must be a Minke, not a Sperm?

Mum Whale: “How?”

Little Moby: “Because there’s a bloke on a Japanese factory ship over there pointing a harpoon at me.”

Mum Whale: “You’re not a target species.

"But if you do get shot it’s over quick.

"The grenade-tipped harpoon explodes on impact, expanding barbs and killing you instantly.

"All in the name of scientific research.”

Whale meat 

There are some things a little whale doesn’t need to know – like scientific research and being simmered, grilled, deep-fried or served raw, as sashimi, in a downtown Tokyo restaurant being the same thing.

Because whale meat has emerged from the culinary shadows and is socially acceptable again.

Japan even has whale meat vending machines.

Whale meat is lower in calories, and higher in protein, than chicken.

Anyone for crispy buttermilk fried whale tonight?

Apparently whale meat is dark and tastes gamey, like beef, but richer and not at all fishy.

And every bit of the whale goes on the plate – jaw, stomach, tail, cheek and back…and the pièce de résistance, the penis.

Which raises questions about preparation and presentation.

Mum Whale: “In everyone’s best interests dear we eat 4 per cent of our body weight every day so the Japanese are protecting the marine food chain by controlling the whale population.”


Little Moby: “Why do you have barnacles all over your face Mum?”

Mum Whale: “Doesn’t matter dear. Men aren’t interested in that end.”

Little Moby: “You probably need ambergris.”

Mum Whale: “Did you say ham-burg-ers?”

Little Moby: “No! Ambergris, am-berg-ris.

Whenever food or bacteria gets lodged in my gullet or digestive system I barf up a big dollop of solid, waxy whale vomit.

Humans love it – use it in the manufacture of perfumes and aphrodisiacs.”

This stuff costs $40,000 a kilo – it’s the most valuable animal goop in the world.

Mum Whale: “Now, can we talk birds and bees.

"You have got 20 years to reach sexual maturity, because then I’m off with the girls.

"I am matrilineal.

"And you do what a boy whale’s gotta do.”