WHO ARE WE?
The Shelltone Whale Project is a non-profit organisation, recognised as being of general interest for its research into acoustics with cetaceans and its environmental actions in the marine environment. It specialises in interspecies communication with cetaceans.
Pierre Lavagne de Castellan
Marine bioacoustician ? Ethologist ? Research director of the Shelltone Whale Project.
He met his first humpback whale and heard its song in Hawaii in 1981. Since then, he has travelled around the world and sailed in all seas. To establish contact and initiate interspecies communication with humpback whales, music soon became an obvious way.
In 2005, he created the Shelltone Whale Project and obtained recognition as being of general interest. In 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 allows him to play music underwater in the frequencies of humpback whales with the same range.
From 2008 to 2012, he tested this instrument between northern California and the Hawaiian archipelago, with humpback whales. The first musical exchanges between humans 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.
Léa Lavagne de Castellan
Member of the research team and cetacean guide of the Agoa sanctuary.
Léa has developed a beautiful 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 programme.
A complicity was born between her and the different species we study, especially with the sperm whales that she calls her "Gwo Pwasons" ? She follows the births very closely and gives names to the baby sperm whales, which she then meets regularly over the years.
She is capable of analysing the behaviour of the different species that inhabit the waters of the Agoa sanctuary where we work, she knows how to observe or interact with them without intrusion, in the greatest respect.
In addition to her participation in the research programme, Léa is a qualified guide for the Agoa sanctuary, she supervises the cetacean observation trips we organise, she sets up a geo-referencing system for all the animals she meets, she notes their position, takes photos and analyses their behaviour, in the evening she debriefs her trip and keeps databases on the cetaceans of the leeward coast of Guadeloupe up to date
Her research work is perfectly compatible with her role as a guide during the observation trips we organise. She involves the people who accompany her in her work, which is certainly the best way to share a passion and offer knowledge.
Photographer - Member of the Research Team.
Valerie is the underwater eye of the Shelltone Whale Project. She spent her early childhood in New Caledonia, then lived between Martinique and Guadeloupe. She joined the Shelltone Whale Project research team 6 years ago. Valérie documents through images our experience of inter-species communication with the cetaceans of Guadeloupe.
PLAY MUSIC WITH THE WHALES
The mission of the Shelltone Whale Project is to play, improvise, co-write and record music with whales, sublimating through this common creation the fundamentals of inter-species communication, and 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.
Beneath 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 been close to 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 the Acoustic Research Laboratory of the University of Geneva, we are now in the process of developing a new approach to acoustics.Ecole Centrale de Nantes and theStanford University in CaliforniaThe Shelltone Whale Project team has created a wind instrument inspired by the marine conch shell, which can reproduce the songs of whales above and below the water surface.
In every region of the world, humpback whale families compose songs that are unique to them. However, every 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 suggests that they have a universal consciousness.
Moreover, research by the Shelltone Whale Project has shown that they are able to engage in interspecies 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 to be able to live intimate moments 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 and artistic creations throughout the world.
The message is in the song.
The whales allow us to live a special relationship with them on a daily basis and thus to be able to live intimate moments 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.
Indeed, recording whale songs while observing their behaviour when they emit the sounds, allows us to make hypotheses about the usefulness of these songs on their family, on distinct individuals, on their environment.
The whale songs we record are the result of years of research and thousands of hours spent at sea, in contact with them, we compile, classify and study thousands of hours of whale songs, these recordings are the basis of our research.
AN UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER...
Whale song recorded 10 miles off Baille Argent on 26 April 2016. On that day we were stopped, engines off, listening to the hydrophone. Three singing males have arrived and positioned themselves under our boat, they started to sing? The echo is natural, we were placed on a birth vortex, the geological configuration of the vortex produces this echo.
They sang for 43 minutesWe recorded everything, and then they left, as they had arrived, in silence?
The way the singers did it was very unusual, we were aloneThey were not singing to a family member, they were not singing to a mass of phytoplankton, no, it was something else, this song seemed to be meant for us.
We are now, as we were when we had this experience, convinced that there is a message in this song.
We wish you a good listening...