What Does the Whale Say?

Quack, quack, quack, quack

Apr 24, 2014
Outside Magazine
OutsideOnline mystery quack bio-duck minke whale Antarctic Southern Ocean NOAA

Underwater with the mystery "quacker"    Getty Images/iStockphoto/Daniel Benhaim

The "bio-duck" has baffled scientists since the Cold War. NOAA thought the low-frequency quacking sound that occurs frequently off the coast of Antartica might have been the by-product of fishing boats, an elusive Soviet submarine, or some mythical polar duck.

But now, researchers from Duke University have an answer: the Antarctic minke whale. The smallest of the baleen whales, this solitary creature stays close to dense sea ice.

"That makes them quite hard to study, too, and that's also part of the reason why the signal has not been identified earlier," NOAA marine biologist Denise Risch told NPR. "It goes 'quack, quack, quack, quack.' It has this almost mechanical feel to it."

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