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52 Hertz
 

LONELIEST

Inspired by a rare and beautiful song emanating deep from the Pacific ocean.

There is a paper, published in late 2004, sharing 12 years of research on a rare, hybrid blue whale - this specific whale has never been seen, only heard. Its unique song was captured on the vast network of Cold War sonar equipment scattered about the bottom of the Pacific. For decades, The Whale has called out, but, because its voice comes in at 52 Hz, whereas all other whales sing at 10-15 Hz, its song has gone unanswered. And so, 52 has wandered the open water, year after year, alone.

The Loneliest Mix is an audio project, sharing the beautiful and rare song of a hybrid blue whale, known by the name the Loneliest Whale, one mix-tape at a time.

A mysterious song deep in the open ocean draws a quiet young Kentucky woman down an atmospheric and inspired trail of scientific research, haunting fantasy and personal re-discovery; following the unpredictable depths at which people will go to feel a connection with something they have never seen, but cannot forget.

Imagine entering a dimly lit warehouse - there, suspended above you, is a kinetic life-sized whale sculpture. Constructed from thousands of mirrored triangles, each catching the light as it slowly swims in space. This is the Loneliest Whale, a twenty first century folktale. 

Back in 2011, when I first happened across a story of (what scientists had nicknamed) the Loneliest Whale, the only available audio file from the 12 years of tracking its movements in the Pacific was a 15-second WAV file on the NOAA website.

All whale songs you've heard in the past are very likely to have been sped up 10x, as it makes the songs easier to hear. Comparatively, here is the song of a Western Pacific Blue Whale in the 10-20 Hz range. 

I became obsessed with finding and listening to the original version of 52 - but it was nowhere to be found on the NOAA site or in any of the supporting research materials. 

After several weeks of searching, I decided to use an audio program to slow down the 15-second NOAA audio file by 10x, to its original state. The result of which produced no sound at all on my iMac speakers, or so I thought -- 

When I crawled under the office table to plug in my subwoofer I heard the beautiful, strange, rumbling song of the only known blue whale to have wandered the open ocean alone for decades. Shortly after that moment, I recorded the song of 52 on a cassette tape, and I've been sharing it with people ever since. 

Note, the above Soundcloud embeds feature spectrograms for each of the whale songs. If you'd like look at these spectrograms in full-res, you can do so below: