Beneath the waves, two smoldering coals for eyes watched me with an intense, unyielding stare. Pristine white bodies floated up elegantly from the depths, one after another, surrounding my kayak in the open water. Their ghostly pale faces with wide, Joker-esque smiles pushed closer. A long, powerful sound burst up through the air, like a slowly deflating balloon, followed by silence and more expectant staring.
I was having a one-sided conversation with a pod of curious beluga whales. The mouth of Churchill River in northern Manitoba, Canada, was calm and quiet on this chilly, overcast July day, but these bright white whales were not. Belugas, nicknamed “the canaries of the sea” thanks to their song-like sounds, are social, playful and highly communicative. They repeated their shrieks and tunes, floating around me in anticipatory silence. There was only one thing left to do: sing along.
In response, raucous clicks and squeals drifted upward out of the dark water, like someone tapping on a microphone for attention, broken by steady streams of blowhole bubbles. I got the distinct feeling that I was being discussed.
Each summer in Churchill, Manitoba, the beluga whales are in charge. Humans are their rubber duckies in the tub. https://t.co/Q2L9ZP4naW
— NYT Science (@NYTScience) May 13, 2020