The Song of the Gregarious Polygynous Pinniped
April 21, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I would like a full CD/LP of bearded seals, please.

I am presently obsessed with the vocalizations of bearded seals.

I've searched high and low, and I can't find an entire CD devoted to our friend erignathus barbatus. I've found bits and bobs on various nature complications, but nobody seems to have hit a home run on 74-ish minutes of pure pinniped goodness. Any recommendations, regardless of format or obscurity? (Or know any bioacousticians who've made some recordings?)

Note: I am indeed capable of editing my existing recordings to fill whatever length I choose, but I'd still like to know if anyone's done this. Plus: MORE!
posted by mykescipark to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, bizzare, and I can understand your interest in this.

Answer: I doubt any exist in retail form, but I imagine researchers of bearded seals have recordings (especially as the first Google search suggestion for vocalizations of bearded seals is a search of scholarly articles). Contact the people and/or departments listed in the abstracts, and ask them if they might share with you their recordings.

Or, find a zoo with bearded seals and record 'em yourself! If you want a top-notch recording, see if you can pay some technical/film school students with proper audio recording know-how and devices to help you (but you may need to contact the zoo to tell them what you want to do).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:27 PM on April 21, 2011

Response by poster: flt, interesting. I've never heard them make that sound abovewater before. This [MP3] is more the glorious cacophony that I'm used to. A hydrophone would be required to make that sort of recording!

I am indeed pursuing the scholarly angle as we speak. A good starting point.
posted by mykescipark at 1:36 PM on April 21, 2011

Okay, now hang on. Just hang on a minute - mykescipark are you telling me that this is an unadulterated, unedited, unspliced, undubbed, unlayered recording captured as is in nature?
posted by likeso at 2:06 PM on April 21, 2011

Response by poster: Yes.
posted by mykescipark at 2:34 PM on April 21, 2011

Good Lord. Okay, when you find that CD/LP?


(this is amazing. i am so gonna share that mp3 with with my keyboard/synth musician spouse and friends. they will plotz.)
posted by likeso at 3:29 PM on April 21, 2011

Maybe Dr Lars Kinderman can help? He's in charge of transmitting live from the Ocean below the Antarctic Ice, as featured in silent listening.
posted by scruss at 5:35 PM on April 21, 2011

... scratch that, seems that Lars is recording at the other pole from the arctic bearded seal
posted by scruss at 5:55 PM on April 21, 2011

I found this. The bearded seal is at the beginning of the video, as is the name of the person recording it (Kate Stafford, and the organization/expedition she was working for RUSALCA). Their web page (part of NOAA). Fire off an email to Ms. Stafford?

Other oceanographic sites may give some joy.

It also occured to me that as its habitat is around the North Pole, a search on country-specific sites might also deliver (Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc.) A Dutch site (hey, they like seals) gave me this, a minute-long recording, to add to the collection. If you don't already have it.
posted by likeso at 7:21 PM on April 21, 2011

My first encounter with the sound of bearded seals was on David Toop's "Ocean of Sound Volume 2" compilation CD. I am listening to this 2 mins 40 track - much to the consternation of my dog - as I write. If anybody knew were to find more - he might.

By the way I have noticed that atlantic seal colonies also make a pretty wierd noise under the right conditions - a kind of howling. So maybe it is not so unique.
posted by rongorongo at 6:32 AM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: rongorongo, it was on Volume 1 of Ocean of Sound, and that's actually the MP3 that I shared above :-)

There are indeed a few different seals which make noises of this kind (and there are a few records containing Weddell seals recorded by Douglas Quin), but to my particular ears I love the bearded seals the most.

Also: Toop is rather bad about responding to e-mails of this kind. IIRC, he even has a preface in the book Ocean of Sound to the effect of "No, I'm not going to make copies/help you track down any of this stuff, so don't even ask."
posted by mykescipark at 7:23 AM on April 22, 2011

You also might want to ask someone at Canada's Centre of Expertise in Marine Mammalogy. We've got quite a bit of Arctic.
posted by scruss at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2011

There's a pretty clear 50 second recording available here. And bearded seals get two tracks on this record. Another recording is cited here.

The Discogs record is associated with "Interspecies Music and Communication Research". Jamming with orcas.
posted by unmake at 6:14 PM on April 23, 2011

Whoops - linked to the same sound in your post. This page lists Cornell's Macaulay Library as a promising resource, but their site is sown at the moment.
posted by unmake at 6:27 PM on April 23, 2011

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