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Interview with Rebeca Campos Cuellar, Los Organos Peru (Pacifico Adventures*)
What fascinates you about the humpback whale Songs?
I was fascinated from the first moment I heard their singing. I was out on a boat that day and heard their singing. It was so magical. They transmit so much beautiful energies.
I did not believe very much in this before but when I first heard the humpback whales singing and felt to become calm and automatically peaceful…. everything shifted.
When I go out on the boat and feel the waves, the ocean and then hear the humpback whale singing… it is the favorite part of the tour for me. It is right then when I feel relaxed, peaceful and all stress is immideatly forgotten. I connect with the animal and I wondered: „what do they want to tell me?“ I started to read and read and I realized that I have to start investigating more. In Peru, there is no specialist up to now who dedicates research to humpback whale songs. We closely work with Esteban Duque from Colombia who researches about the humpback whale songs. He supports me a lot with Information, his knowledge and data. Also Diego, one of our tour guides from Chile, helps me a lot and knows so much about the songs of the humpback whales.
I am still learning and they are already very knowledgable about the topic.
Do the humpback whales invent their songs every year?
Once a humpback whale is born, they learn the songs from all adults around them. The baby hears the songs from all of the other whales around it. The whales migrate to the South, forget a bit about the song and they come back to their zone of reproduction and the songs have changes.
The songs change with time and also with populations. The populations do not mix. In total there are 14 tribes of humpback whales in the world. They travel in different parts of the world and each tribe has its Songs.
We saw that in Colombia the songs have changed. This also applies for Peru. This week (last week of August 2019) we compared the songs from Colombia and Peru and saw the changes in the songs.
How do you do it? On the tour you record the songs of the humpback whales and afterwards you listen to other Songs?
Yes, after the tour I sit with the other guides and we re-listen to the recorded songs of the tour. One day we listened and noticed: „This phrase we have not heard before.“ So we repeated and repeated this particular part of the recording, recorded it and sent it to our friend in Colombia. He told us that this is the exact part of changes which they have observed and heard in Colombia too the last month.
You record for approximately 15 minutes? After this time: does the whale stop singing or does he start a new song?
We always try to record about 20 minutes. The song lasts 15 minutes but when we put down the microphone it is possible that the song has already started before. Therefore we record 20 minutes to be sure we have recorded the whole song. Sometimes it is not possible due to waves or tourists prefer to go back to the shore.
We try to have all phrases of the song. It is interesting for our research as with this we can observe that the same group of whales which travelled to Colombia is now returning to Peru. They went to their feeding zone in Colombia and now come back to the Northern coast of Peru.
It is important for us to know how long they travel and when they return.
Do you have contacts outside of Colombia and Chile?
Yes, my main contact is to Colombia. Marcel, who is Brazilian and also works here right now, has a lot of contacts in Costa Rica, Baja California, Chile and in Brazil.
Yesterday Marcel demonstrated me a song of a blue whale in Baja California which he recorded.
The blue whale sings with a frequency of 16 to 100 Hertz which is very strong. It is impossible for us humans to hear this frequency. Our ears can only hear up to 20 Hertz.
So yesterday we put audios and headphones to hear the blue whale singing. It sounds like BUM BUM … and is really amazing.
What happens if one is diving close to a blue whale in the ocean? Would it be a shock to be close to his singing for humans?
There is no scientific proof but they say that it is harmful. If a human is about one meter close to a singing blue whale it could be deadly. It is very strong and intense energy for humans.
However, there is no scientific proof.
The vibration seems to be very intense, isn´t it`
Yes. The humpback whales do not have vocals. It is more like an instrument of the wind. The mouth makes sounds like a flute. They expand the sound under water.
You can hear the songs up to 32 km if the whale sings strongly.
Once they sing, they are concious but very relaxed and only the male sing.
Why do the male humpback whales sing?
So far we know that the males sing to attract female humpback whales. During the singing the whale does not move as he stays mostly in the same are of the water. Our Colombian friend told us that once you put the microphone down the water to hear the whale songs and the song seems to be more silent it is because the whale is moving upwards to get some air. So the whale comes to the surface, breathes and continues to sing.
They can sing up to 20 minutes, breathe on the surface of the water and sing another 20 minutes. The longest continous singing which is recorded up to now is 22 hours. It is not clear up to know how and why they sing for so long. It is truly incredible.
In your research and experience: how do the noises of the boats and in the ocean influence the singing of the whales?
Yes. Some of the whales get accostumed to the sounds of the big boats. They sing but they do not hear the approaching boat. There are whales who have injuries in their backs as they hit the ships of 30 m.
Are the boats you use for the tours harmful for the whales?
No. Once we are with the whale, close to the whale, we leave one motor on. Therefore the whale knows that we are there. The frequency of this motor is very low.
The industrial boats and the very loud sounds are the ones which interfere a lot with the singing of the humpback whales.
This is a problem right now under the water that the sound is so loud of cruise ships and industrial ships.
Do you believe that the humpback whales try to tell us something?
I truly believe that. They are such intelligent animals and have the capacities to invent and sing all these songs… I feel that they sing for other reasons too than attracting female whales. I feel that between mother and baby there is also a deep communication. They do not sing with each other but they use vocalizations . So this is another form of communication.
I work a lot with energy. This is not scientific now, but when I hear these songs, I feel pure light. It is like a light which fills you and continues to be present hours and hours after the encounter with the whale. Is there any science around this topic that you can share?
There is no science up to now regarding this topic. I heard about a legend that they are messengers of the Universe and they give you a lot of spirituality and energy. I do not know about the science part but it happens to me too that they really take away all stress. In some of our passengers I saw how they changed after hearing the songs of the humpback whales. Others hear their songs and start to vomit into the ocean. So I am sure that the songs have a different impact on different persons.
One other important aspect for me is how we can form the mentality of children. It is not good to show children a whale or turtle whose stomach is full of plastic. With these images they will get used and accostumed to. Once they are adults and see these images they will say: „Yes, how sad but I have seen this before.“
If the child goes into nature and sees the beauty of it, and the wonderful environment they will grow up and will contribute to keep the nature like they have known it as a child.
Do you organise special children activities here?
Yes, Pacifico adventures organises „Cinema Pacifico“. We showed a documentary called „Fish people“. It is about how the life of people changes if and when they work at the ocean. For children it is important to realize that there is pollution in the waters and that they connect with nature and want to protect it, save it.
How long have you been working here?
I have been here for 6 weeks.
Did you have contacts with the local population here? Do they realize and appreciate the huge biodiversity there is here in this area?
Yes. For example I talked a lot with fishermen who are working as captains of our boats. They know very well about the biodiversity. They are worried about the environment and they also fight for awareness in the area.
There are fishermen who really care about the environment. Sadly, there are problems with the government who have not supported them.
In the end, money rules our world still.
Many live from the ocean, care for it a lot but do not have many opportunities without governmental support.
What is the message of Pacifico adventures?
More than anything we want to transmit conservation for the animals of the ocean. We aim to protect them and to raise awareness about the richness and biodiversity of the Northern coast of Peru. We can see dolphins, humpback whales, turtles, sea lions, a diversity of birds. It is also our aim to raise conciousness about our responsibility to protect and to aware that we are guests in the oceans. We visit them with patience, joy and respect.
We try to raise awareness about plastic consumption (in our café we do not use any plastic) and a lot of empathy with nature and all its beings.
What was your most magical moment with the humpback whales?
It was one trip with my friend Katharina who also works here. We went to look for whales and discovered a group of 150 dolphins who were just feeding. It was beautiful. There were pelicans and lots of different birds. In this amazing place of feeding a whale appeared.
It was so moving and the whale did three saltos… it truly was a moment which touches you and it made me cry.
Everyone in the boat was silent, enjoying, joyful and we could hear the sound of the whale moving in the ocean. It was so beautiful.
Every day is different and we never know what will happen.
The last question: When did you hear the first time you heard the singing of the humpback whale?
It was here in Los Organos last year. Juli 2018. Since that time I want to learn more, went back to University and my professor gave me an article about the songs of the humpback whales. I want to learn more and more.
I have always loved whales. The problem is that the majority told me: „You will not earn much with the conversation of whales. It is difficult to work in this“ All these commentaries are very strong sometimes. I thought they are right that I keep the whales as a hobby.
However, after hearing the singing of the humpback whales I could not stop reading and it filled my heart so much. I started to talk with my friends and this is how I came here to Pacifco adventures to spend time with the whales and learn more.
It was a risk for me since I did not know anyone here and have never been away from home alone.
I am 21 years old, the youngest of the team and really was nervous to come alone.
It has been truly wonderful to have this opportunity, being here, learning with my colleagues.
I am so happy that I can spend time out on the ocean, hear their singing. The passion for them is not changing so I realized that it is my path.
My topic for the thesis for University is still open as I want to collect, analyze and then realize which direction I want to write.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I hope that we all in every part of the world wants to protect the environment. In the ocean passports do not exist… so the whales are for everyone not only for Peruvians. I truly hope that people realize that the whales are not for money, but for our Environment.
And last but definitely not least I want to thank my colleagues who have taught me so much during this time!!!
Thank you Jon, Lara, Marcel, Diego, Juan Francisco, Kate, and everyone from the team!!! THANK YOU
THANK YOU SO MUCH for your TIME, PASSION to protect WHALES and all the best for you dear Rebeca!
* Pacifico adventures is an organisation, dedicated to ecotourism and preservation of the Ocean in Los Organos, Peru
Hier ein Interview, das ich mit Johanna Vedral im Oktober 2018 geführt habe:
Los Videos son Como un blog… hablando con y de la naturaleza
primero: en espanol :-)
The Video below is in English... hopefully nature´s Sound was not louder than my voice ;-)