The 52-Hertz Whale Takes a Turn in the Spotlight

The album, if the fates allow.COURTESY KICKSTARTER

The album, if the fates allow.


Not to be confused with the “London Whale,” the financial trader whose dubious moves were linked to $6.2 billion in losses for JPMorgan Chase during the economic downturn of 2012, the “52-Hertz Whale” is an actual whale wandering the seas of the world with a plaintive, haunting song. Fifty-two hertz are not many hertz—the low end for human hearing is said to bottom out at 20 hertz (with the upper end at 20,000). But there are enough to get a hint of audibility and, for sure, the sensation of a guttural rumble that you can feel more than hear.

Recordings of the 52-Hertz Whale are rare—it has been called the “Loneliest Whale in the World”—but plentiful enough for an audio project by Mike Ambs, who has been transferring the elusive sounds to repurposed cassettes since 2011. Now, it’s time for vinyl. If this Kickstarter campaign goes as it should, 100 LPs will be pressed and sent to listeners in for a worldly/otherworldly treat. Check out the campaign to hear/feel a sample of the sound, and kick in if the impulse strikes any time until January 31.

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