You’ve heard of the World’s Loneliest Whale, haven’t you? According to legend — because this has started to become the stuff of story rather than science — the Loneliest Whale swims alone, back and forth across the Pacific, singing his little whale heart out, though no whale ever returns his unique song. It’s a sad story.
Scientists have been listening to the whale since the late 1980s, when biologist Bill Watkins first heard him and noted that his songs were being sung at 52 hertz — a fact that gave the whale his name, Whale 52. And yet in nearly three decades, no one has ever actually seen the whale.
There are a few things scientists mostly agree on about Whale 52: He is probably a he. Both male and female whales vocalize, but it’s the males who sing. He is probably a blue whale, though, judging from his signature song, Watkins believed he may have some fin whale heritage, too. (Some whales have regional accents, you’ll recall.) But right now there are more questions than answers regarding Whale 52, including the most basic assumption about him: Maybe he’s not lonely at all.
In a recent story about the creature, New Scientist poses a bold new theory:
[W]e think male whales sing mainly to attract mates, and 52 has almost certainly failed to woo a partner. That does not mean he is lonely – for whales mating is not about companionship – but he could well be frustrated. Perhaps Whale 52 is actually the horniest whale in the world.
Thanks, New Scientist, for taking a satisfyingly melancholic story about a lonely marine mammal and making it weird. Regardless, if you like, you can listen to the whale now dubbed World’s Horniest here: