Interspecies Communications

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Interspecies Field Projects

The Philosophy Behind our Field Projects


belugasFor 30 years, Interspecies' field projects have sent crews onto every ocean except the Antarctic, and into foreign countries on every continent. Our projects emphasize communication research with pseudorcas in Japan and Tonga, dolphins in the Bahamas, Mexico, and the west coast of Australia, blue whales in Baja, Humpbacks in Hawaii, Canada, and Alaska, pilot whales off the Canary Islands, cachalot in the Azores, beluga whales in Russia, the Canadian high Arctic, and the Bering Strait.

The Orca Project (Ongoing)

belugasFor the past 35 years, Interspecies has been developing a musical common ground between orcas and human beings. The Orca project has always been located in the straits off northern Vancouver island, with the same whale pods, and with over 200 human participants overall. Interspecies founder, Jim Nollman, first brought a musical instrument up to Johnstone Strait in 1976, to attempt musical communication with these orcas. In the beginning he used floating drums. By 1979 he had moved on to the electric guitar in order to both play and hear the underwater environment. To facilitate contact between species, Interspecies has also developed a unique underwater sound system, installed in a boat, to serve as a "telephone line" to the whales. The Interspecies orca Project has been the subject of magazine stories and TV shows. Sponsors have included The Threshold Foundation, ABC News, CBS 60 Minutes, and The Slifka Foundation among many others.

Other pages about our Orca Project:

Russian Beluga Project (Ongoing)

belugasThis holistic field project began in 1986. Over 25 years, it has involved scientists, activists, artists, and programmers using sophisticated digital audio analysis to test the hypothesis that these whales possess a language. What does this language "look like"? Read some of the pages listed below to find the answer to this basic question. This field project started in Alaska's Bering Strait, then moved to the MacKenzie Rive delta, then east and north into the Canadian High Arctic of Somerset and Baffin island, and finally to the Russian Arctic Republic of Karelia adjacent to Finnish Lapland. So much travel was a result of one simple necessity. To attempt interaction with whales, or any animal species, it is essential that the animal subject is not being killed by human hunters. Ironically, the Russian Arctic was our best choice, because the Soviets had largely been purging the native population of Karelia for the past 80 years. This area is rich in 6000 year old petroglyphs, some of them depicting shamans interacting musically with beluga whales. Herds of belugas are still resident, but drastically need protection.

Other pages about our Beluga Field Project:

Japan Cetacean Consultancy (Ongoing)

dolphinsIn 1980, Interspecies consulted with Greenpeace on one of that environmental group's first overseas projects. Fishermen on Iki Island were slaughtering about 1000 dolphins a year under the guise of protecting their fish stocks. We eventually split from Greenpeace over differences in strategy, and returned to Iki funded by The Animal Welfare Institute and The World Wildlife Fund. For an entire winter, our team worked directly with fishermen to test acoustic methods to keep dolphins away from individual fishing boats.
For the past several years, IC has been consulting closely with the Japanese ICERC network, promoting events, art, and media to help transform the Japanese public's perception of living whales and dolphins. 1996, the IC/ICERC team demonstrated the potential of changing whalers into whale watchers, on a national tour that included a huge media event on a ship that had only recently been converted from whaling to whale watching. In 2005, Interspecies designed a pavilion focused on whale sounds, for Japan EXPO.

Other pages about our work in Japan:

Alaska Humpback Project (1996-1998)

bubble netDuring the winter months, in tropical waters, male humpback whales sing their evocative songs to attract females. The best singers — perhaps those who tell the best story, or who embellish the basic melody most creatively — attract the biggest audience. No one knows what they are singing about, although it has been postulated that individual songs bespeak the singer's lineage. Humpback biologist, Roger Payne, has compared humpback songs to epic poems, pointing out that each unique song contains distinct rhyming elements. A song may last up to twenty minutes and then get repeated, verbatim. In the summertime, on their feeding grounds of southeast Alaska, both genders vocalize, but it is no longer a song, but a strident call to other nearby whales to join a "bubble net" cooperative hunt for fish. Our own 3 years work with humpbacks developed as a collaboration with distinguished biologist Fred Sharpe of the Alaska Whale Foundation. You can hear some of these "other" humpback sounds in in our Belly of the Whale Project. Or you can hear both variants of humpback calls in this unusual piece of ambient techno you are listening to, entitled "Humpy's Raga". Winter songs provide the drone. The melody is assembled from several samples taken from the summer hunting calls. The rhythm is constructed from cachalot and lag dolphin echo clicks.


The Lag Dolphin Interaction (Ongoing)

lag dolphinsThe Pacific White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is a fast swimming dolphin found in the cool to temperate waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Every August, a very large herd of at least 300 Lags gathers in Queen Charlotte Strait, off Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. They congregate here to feed on the vast herring and eulachon schools of late summer. And most years since 2000, Interspecies has been there with a crew aboard the Shelmar, skippered by captain Bob Wood, to attempt realtime musical contact.

Other pages influenced by our work with Lag Dolphins


cachalotCachalot Pilgrimage (2000-2002)

The sperm whale is a great animal mystery. This being has a brain 5 times the size of our own, and was hunted nearly to extinction. Our own "pilgrimage" to meet this species, in a place where it still thrives, took us to the Azores, located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. One essential aspect of our project's agenda is to promote the English-speaking world to adopt cachalot as this being's official name, and eliminate the old name "sperm whale".

Other pages influenced by our work with Cachalot:

Art For Nature
Recent Songs
On Activism