The Healing Power of Whales' Song
Can we learn to 'sing one song' together?
I remember the first time I heard it… I forgot my wetsuit that morning, so I was shivering as I paddled out into the spring waves, but the water was so clear that it felt like it was calling me… and I knew I had to answer. As I reached the deeper waters out past the break, I slid off my surfboard and dove down deep – something the buoyancy of my forgotten wetsuit would not have allowed so easily. I swam down as far as I could go… and as I dived beyond the morning sun-rays, I suddenly heard him in the distance. His hauntingly peaceful hymn, echoing through the water, moving to and through me.
This ancient song that has circled the globe for millions of years. This song that continues to change and evolve, yet is sung in unison by all within a thousand miles. This song that unifies and guides the way of those who hear and join its chorus. It is speculated that a whale’s song unimpeded could circle the globe and return to its sender. One of the most extraordinary discoveries about the Humpback’s song is that even though the song has complex verses and chorus (sometimes lasting up to 24 hours in a stretch) and even though the melody is constantly changing and evolving over time, at any given moment, across an entire region of ocean… All of the whales are all singing the same song.
Imagine that! A great underwater chorus weaving a sonic web of positive frequency throughout the waters of the planet… and singing the same song! With thousands of whales moving along ancient migration trails each year, some believe that their songlines not only help them navigate, communicate and swoon their mates, but also help keep the magnetic fields of our planet in balance. On this spring morning in the waters of Australia, I feel the truth of this theory to my core. While I may only be hearing one voice, in reality I am tapping into an entire underwater choir where each brings their own unique expression to a greater song that connects them all.
Mesmerized by the moment, I actually try singing back with my own garbled bubbling from the depths. It sounds… ridiculous, and instantly I start choking. I kick to the surface gasping for air and as I tread there catching my breath, the great whale also rises, as if on cue. With a giant pluming breath on the horizon, he hangs there for a few moments, so I grab a couple lungs full of oxygen just in time to join him for his next dive.
As I step from the water and back into my day… I feel connected, not only to this great being and his song, but to all of life. And I am left with a yearning curiosity… What if humanity could find a way to ‘sing one song’ together? A song where each of us brings our unique voice and vision to the circle in such a way that it does not divide or separate, but unifies, nurtures and connects us all?
Whales have lived in harmony in our oceans for over 50 million years.
They are of the most immense, intelligent and physically powerful creatures on the planet… yet they are also among the most gentle. Their peaceful ways and their willingness to connect with humanity despite the lack of mutual respect they often receive hints at a level of mastery and benevolence aspired to by our greatest earthly teachers.
Whales are also fundamentally integral to the biological balance of the oceans and therefore the planet. One of the most exciting scientific discoveries in the past 50 years has been the discovery of what’s known as “trophic cascades” – an ecological phenomenon that starts with behaviour at the top of the food chain and tumbles all the way down to the bottom, bringing benefit to each link along the way.
The incredible video “How Whales Change Climate” shares how the whales’ swimming and eating patterns have an intricate life-giving impact on the entire eco-system of the ocean – including the fish and krill that they eat. And how their continual passage from the dark depths of the ocean up to the “photic zone” at the surface and back down again triggers the vital life cycle of oxygen producing plankton, which in turn absorb vast amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere drawing it back to the ocean depths each year.
Over the past few decades there have been many great initiatives reaching out to humanity to protect whales and support their return to balanced populations following the near-extinction of several whale species from intensive periods of whaling and other damaging human influences over the past hundred years. It’s powerful to realize that as we steward the health of our oceans and support whale numbers to once again gain balance, we contribute to an incredible cascading, life-giving cycle that ultimately preserves the atmosphere and very air we breathe! And so it seems that as much as the whales need us, we need the whales – for the critical, balancing role they play in our oceans and for their powerful reminder that it really is possible to sing one song together.
(Photo: Sand mandala honouring the freedom of whales in the Southern Ocean.)
If you have ever been on or in the water when a whale surfaces to breach or breathe, you will have felt a sense of wonder reflected in the eyes of all who witness the moment. Many people say their entire lives have been changed by a single moment of eye contact with one of these great beings. Perhaps in their graceful immensity, whales give us a glimpse into a deeper and vaster aspect of our own being. Perhaps they awaken in us a consciousness that has been here as long as they have. They call forth the song of our own soul that is woven into the great creation song of life. They call us to remember. To rise up as one family and remember how powerful we are when we come together, in peace, for the greater good of all. Now is the time.
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This article appears in: 2015 Catalyst, Issue 6: Honoring Water Through World Water Day