When whales talk back
Nollman has made a name for himself communicating with multiple species, but today’s talk will focus on whales.
“The whales – they don’t fit most of our definition of animals,” he said. “They have consciousness, and biologists are now trying to figure out ways to use their standard operating procedures to learn about that.”
People familiar with whales, though, know there’s more to learn about them than is revealed by “standard operating procedures.” Nollman believes the whales will eventually be responsible for forcing science to undergo a paradigm shift, opening up old science to new possibilities.
“Soon, the human culture will have to reassess how we think about animals,” he said. “We used to think of scientists as our ambassadors to the natural world. We give them a lot of power. But I think the whales are going to be our ambassadors, though not right away.”
For 25 years, he’s been playing music with and for whales – belugas, grays, orcas and more. He invited people to go with him, including classical musicians, Indian lamas, psychics, children and life-long activists in the whale-preservation cause.
“Anybody who had a good idea of what they wanted to say to the whales,” said Nollman. “We didn’t have a clue of what the whales would be interested in.”
The results, he said, could “blow your mind.” After going out in the water again and again, he’s compiled quite a pile of observations, both concrete and nebulous.
“There’s a buzz in the business that these whales happen to show up just when we need them an awful lot,” he said.
The first few times the whales showed up unexpectedly for Nollman, it seemed more coincidental. But after 10 times, he started reporting it.
“I can’t tell you that it’s true, but it’s happened a lot,” he said. “So my presentation is that this stuff is starting to build. I’ll be showing these anomalies and trying to make sense of them. I call it navigating the border between humans and whales – and the border is shifting. “
Nollman believes what’s true for whales is true for all animals, but whales are the first ambassadors. And he, in turn, is listening.
“I don’t have any special skill in this stuff,” he declared. “My thing is I do it.”
Doing it sometimes entails going out for 10 hours, and coming back with 10 minutes of usable tape. But that 10 minutes of sound makes the expedition worthwhile. Besides, Nollman loves what he does.
“I guess my mission is, I’m interested in protecting the whales,” he said. “I don’t see that the insulting whaler is working, so let’s try it another way. I think that nature is dying. We’ve been selling it short.”
He’s interested in helping people become active in nature’s preservation, though there isn’t any easy answer. The more he gets involved, the more discouraging it gets. But that doesn’t mean he’s giving up.
Nollman will be reading from his book, “The Man Who Talks to Whales,” during his presentation, though his most recent book is “The Beluga Cafe.” He wrote it when the unthinkable happened – the only time it’s ever happened to him. He went out on a whale expedition, and didn’t see a single one the entire time. He considers it his best work to date.
“Beluga whales are my favorite,” he said. “They’re like angels, they look like casper the friendly ghost. They’re in the Arctic waters and they’re going to be extinct from pollution and hunting. It’s so ironic that an animal that’s the closest to E.T., we’re killing.”
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.
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