Skip to content



Since 1981 in Maui, Hawaii, the mission of the Shelltone Whale Project has been to play, improvise, co-write and record music with whales, sublimating through this joint creation the fundamentals of inter-species communication with cetaceans, then to analyse these data, try to understand them and study the effects of these songs and sounds on other living organisms such as plants, animals and humans.

The Shelltone Whale Project, an association under the 1901 law recognised as being of general interest for its scientific research into inter-species communication with cetaceans and its environmental actions, was created by Pierre Lavagne de Castellan, a marine bio-acoustician and ethologist.

Today, this experience has enabled us, while continuing our research, to develop a conscious technique that respects the approach of cetaceans. 

All our captains are trained in this approach by Pierre Lavagne de Castellan, an approach based on decades of scientific research. Inter-species communication has brought us closer to the intimacy of the animals, to their most intimate feelings about our presence among them.

At the Shelltone Whale Project, we're more than a team, we're a family. We share the same values, which we want you to discover. 

Shelltone Whale Project, better understanding for better protection.


Pierre Lavagne de Castellan

Marine bioacoustician - Ethologist - Research Director of the Shelltone Whale Project

He met his first humpback whale and listened to its song in Hawaii in 1981. Since then, he has sought to establish contact and initiate inter-species communication with humpback whales, and music soon became an obvious avenue.

He set up the Shelltone Whale Project, an association governed by the law of 1901, and obtained recognition of general interest for his research into underwater acoustics and his environmental aircraft in the marine environment.

Over a period of two years, at the acoustic research laboratory of the Ecole Centrale de Nantes and at Stanford University in California, he developed a wind instrument that enabled him to play music underwater in the same range as humpback whales.

From 2008 to 2012, he tested this instrument between northern California and the Hawaiian archipelago with humpback whales. The first musical exchanges between man and cetaceans, underwater, were born from these experiments.

Since 2013, he has been studying whale songs and helping to set up an acoustic and photographic database of cetaceans in the young Agoa sanctuary, a marine protected area in Guadeloupe where humpback whales breed.

He now divides his time between Guadeloupe, where he is trying to re-establish the "lost link", which is now the main mission of the Shelltone Whale Project, and Cadaqués in Catalonia, where he is setting up inter-species communication protocols with the cetaceans of Cap de Creus.

Photograph by Pierre Lavagne de Castellan, Research Director of the Shelltone Whale Project.

Léa Lavagne de Castellan

Member of the Guadeloupe research team

Léa, has developed a good knowledge of cetaceans based on trust and respect.

A special empathy has developed over time between her and these animals since she has been swimming with them in the Shelltone Whale Project research program.

A complicity was born between her and the different species we study, especially with the sperm whales she calls her "Gwo Pwasons" ... She follows the births very closely and gives names to the sperm whale babies, which she then regularly finds over the years.

She is able to analyse the behaviour of the different species that populate the waters of the Agoa Sanctuary where we work, she knows how to observe them or interact with them without intrusion, with the utmost respect.

As well as taking part in the research programme, Léa is a qualified guide for the Agoa sanctuary.

Photograph by Léa Lavagne de Castellan

Mercedes Reyes

Captain and cetacean guide in Tenerife

Mercedes is a marine biologist with over 20 years' experience in cetacean research and conservation. Her main interests are dolphin behaviour, bioacoustics and interspecies communication. Ever since she was a little girl, she has wanted to understand dolphins, their language and their relationship with humans.

She met Pierre Lavagne de Castellan at a conference on inter-species communication with cetaceans that he gave in Lanzarote in 2011. This reinforced her passion and desire to pursue this path.

She has devoted her life to pursuing this interest, as well as to protecting cetaceans and their habitat. Mercedes is also a passionate whale-watcher who is very familiar with the regulations, laws and guidelines. She has worked in the UK, Spain and on Vancouver Island (Canada), with NGOs and governments to monitor, educate and enforce good whale watching practice. She is an innate naturalist, and her passion, love, respect and knowledge are easily passed on to her audience.

Photograph by Mercedes Reyes (Founder, researcher, guide) and captain of the Esiel boat.

Nael Garnier

Captain and cetacean guide in Guadeloupe
Nael was born in Baille Argent, the home port of the Shelltone Whale Project Guadeloupe. He is a qualified professional ship's captain.
Trained by Pierre Lavagne de Castellan in marine acoustics and a responsible approach to cetaceans, he has been a guide and captain of the Shelltone Whale Project Guadeloupe since 2017.
A professional fisherman, he has extensive experience of sailing on the leeward coast of Guadeloupe where we work. His knowledge of the marine environment, fish, marlin, swordfish, tuna and seabirds complements his skills on cetaceans during our observation trips in Guadeloupe.
He is a graduate of the French marine protected areas, the "Agoa" cetacean sanctuary.
Photography by Nael Garnier

Lori Piano

Captain and cetacean guide in Nice

Lori has travelled the world discovering cetaceans for over ten years to learn about them and understand them better.

She met Pierre Lavagne de Castellan, with whom she shares the same philosophy. He trained her in the basics of marine acoustics and taught her the art of a non-intrusive approach to cetaceans, and she practices a responsible approach to cetaceans by following the Shelltone Whale Project "RESPECT" charter.

In 2018, she acquired her sailing boat, the magnificent 14-metre ketch "Cétacéa", which she dedicates to studying cetaceans, particularly those in the Pelagos triangle off Nice on the Côte d'Azur.

His aim with the Shelltone Whale Project is to help local people discover, in a gentle and respectful way, that there are cetaceans under the windows of many of the Côte d'Azur's inhabitants.


Franklin Tarriere

Captain and cetacean guide in Biarritz

Franklin, a Basque-Breton captain, has always let himself be carried along by the ocean. His grandfather passed on to him his deep passion for the sea, and he was already sailing alongside him before he was even old enough to remember.

After becoming a sailor, the sea took him to the four corners of the world, where he experienced some of his greatest adventures. From Ireland to the Caribbean, he cut his teeth on all kinds of ships.

His knowledge of and respect for cetaceans and his encounter with the Shelltone Whale Project have led him to become involved in their study and protection, at home in the Basque Country.

Trained by Pierre Lavagne de Castellan, he discovered the basics of marine bioacoustics and takes a responsible approach to cetaceans by following the Shelltone Whale Project "RESPECT" charter.


Nabil Toumi

Captain and cetacean guide in Guadeloupe and soon in Saint Tropez

Nabil is captain of the Shelltone Whale Project in Guadeloupe, where he learnt the basics of respectful approaches to cetaceans within our organisation and gained the experience needed to spot and observe them.

Nabil is a signatory of the Shelltone Whale Project's "Respect" charter.

A native of the Gulf of Saint Tropez, he sailed there all his childhood and has been working there for 10 years as a professional captain on various vessels.

Nabil will soon be setting up his own Shelltone base in the Gulf of Saint Tropez, from where he will be observing the cetaceans of the Pelagos sanctuary from June to October, while retaining his post as captain in Guadeloupe from December to April.


Valérie Gueit

Photographer - Member of the Guadeloupe Research Team

Valerie is the underwater eye of the Shelltone Whale Project. Daughter of the islands she spent her early childhood in New Caledonia, she then lived between Martinique and Guadeloupe. She joined the Shelltone Whale Project research team 6 years ago. Valérie documents through pictures our experience of interspecies communication with cetaceans in Guadeloupe.



Below the surface of the oceans, whales sing extraordinarily complex and delicate songs, a pure expression of their intense social life and wisdom. Anyone who has approached a whale and had the chance to listen to its song has had the feeling that these peaceful creatures have an immense amount of knowledge to discover and share.

After several years of collaboration between acoustic engineers and marine biologists at theEcole Centrale de Nantes and theStanford University in Californiathe Shelltone Whale Project team has created a wind instrument inspired by the sea conch that can reproduce the songs of whales on the surface and underwater.

In each region of the world, humpback whale families make up their own songs. However, each year, all whales in all oceans have a common song that is constantly evolving. Humpback whales remember the songs they have composed and pass them on between families in different territories. This observation leads us to imagine that they demonstrate a universal consciousness.

What's more, research by the Shelltone Whale Project has shown that they are able to engage in cross-species communication with humans through music.

Playing music with the whales allows us to live a special relationship with them on a daily basis and thus be able to rub shoulders with them and experience moments of intimacy with them. These moments of intimacy allow us to collect a database of sound and behavioural data. We can then make available, organise and promote interdisciplinary research work as well as artistic creations throughout the world.

The message is in the song.


Whales allow us to live a special relationship with them on a daily basis and thus be able to rub shoulders with them and experience moments of intimacy with them. These moments of intimacy allow us to collect a database of sound and behavioural data. We can then make available, organise and promote multidisciplinary research work.

Indeed, recording whale songs while observing their behaviour when they emit sounds allows us to hypothesize about the usefulness of these songs on their family, on distinct individuals and on their environment.

The whale songs that we record are the result of years of research and thousands of hours spent at sea. We compile, classify and study thousands of hours of whale songs; these recordings are the basis of our research.



Whale song recorded 10 miles off Baille Argent on April 26, 2016. That day, we were stopped, engines off, hydrophone listening. Three singing males have arrived and positioned themselves underneath our ship, they began to sing... The echo is natural, we were placed on a birth vortex, the geological configuration of the vortex produces that echo.

They sang for 43 minutes...we recorded everything, and then they left, just as they had arrived, in silence...

The way the singers proceeded is very unusual, we were aloneThey weren't singing to a family member, they weren't singing to a phytoplankton mass, no, that was something else, that song seemed to be meant for us.

Today, as when we lived this experience, we are convinced that there is a message in this song.

We wish you a good listening...

CD cover