By Rodrigo Manterola & Lorna Hill

…second week working at the camp

Although most of the sounds gray whales produce are not audible for us humans due to their low frequency, gray whales, like all cetaceans, have a complex communication system. 

Blue whales songs can travel across the ocean while humpback whales songs are amongst some of the most complete communication systems in the whole animal kingdom, including us. 

The gray whale’s vocal repertoire is rather humble compared to the humpback whale, yet, while pale, it’s just as full as information.

Rapid, rhythmic pulses, clicks, knocks, and grunts, are part of this repertoire.

Grays are vocal all the time, but their chatting goes through the roof in the winter time when in their breeding grounds, the lagoons of Baja, Mexico.

Communication can take place anytime, anywhere. And also, communication takes any form; like us, whales don’t narrow their communication to just sounds; we normally use our body just as much as our words to transmit an idea. 

Whales can display a long list of body language and gestures to communicate; breaching, fluke slaps, and other behaviors are forms of communication too, but what they mean it is still uncertain.

The sounds of the gray whale 1

To my understanding, sound is the fabric of the universe, as vibrations mold the physical world we live in. 

The brains of dolphins and whales have evolved to master sounds. Odontoceti (toothed whales), developed echolocation to perceive the world around them, find food and, as recent studies also mention, to transmit information between individuals. 

Mysticeti on the other hand, don’t have such an evolved bio-sonar, but their singing tells stories of life and names repeated amongst individuals throughout the ocean. 

Campo Cortez, San Ignacio Lagoon Baja, Mexico

Campo Cortez is a palette of sounds and creatures. Coyotes, ospreys, and geese paint the air with elaborate stories from the desert, but sounds go beyond the animal kingdom. 

The morning winds bring the sounds and smells of the mountains, the afternoon shifts the winds from the west, bringing the cool and humid breeze from the ocean, while we think of long gone times when only the gray whale roamed these lagoons in their long journeys along the north American shores.


Sunset in San Ignacio Lagoon


sitting on a sign at Campo Cortez

The Sounds of San Ignacio Lagoon

In this “Acoustic Gallery” by Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program,
you may select and listen to examples of the sounds recorded in the lagoon, and learn about what the researchers have discovered about their frequency, intensity, and diversity within Laguna San Ignacio during the winter months.

There are examples of sounds from gray whales, fish, invertebrates, the wind, rain, and the tides. There are also examples of the sounds produced by whale-watching and fishing boats that operate in the lagoon. Click here