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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Underwater Earthquake Recordings Reveal Mysterious Whale Calls

Aqqa Rosing-Asvid

The blue whale is believed to be the largest animal ever to exist. But nobody remembers number two. Fin whales are the second-largest animals on the planet, weighing in at around 80 tons.

They’re very mysterious creatures, sticking to the deep open ocean, traveling quickly and patrolling all the waters of the globe.

But what’s of particular interest for scientists is the fact that these whales call to one another at a frequency similar to the deep rumblings of underwater earthquakes, says Dax Soule, a research assistant at the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington.

“[Earthquake experts] discovered very quickly that, in addition to all the earthquakes they had recorded, they had an amazingly rich data set of fin whale calls, which they weren’t expecting to see,” Soule says.

Soule is part of a team of researchers that analyzed a year’s worth of recordings from a series of underwater seismometers that were put out on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, about 150 miles off the coast of Vancouver Island, to study earthquakes.

The area is a hot spot for tectonic activity. Turns out it’s also a hot spot for endangered fin whales. The group found over 300,000 whale calls in the earthquake audio data.

Read the whole story on KUOW’s Earthfix