The US Navy captured Noc (pronounced No-See); the beluga whale, in the 1970’s when he was only two years old. He was trained to recover sunken experimental torpedoes from the depths of the frigid, cold waters of the Artic.
Sam Ridgway, a marine biologist who worked with Noc and the other Navy whales, said all of the marine mammals performed their duties very reliably. The biologists would generally, form close bonds with the whales.
“They come to think of us as family,” said Ridgway. “And that’s the reason they stay with us. We have no way of completely controlling them, and yet they do their job and come back. They kind of view themselves as part of a team.”
In 1984, while Navy divers were training, one of them swore that he heard his supervisor give a command over the intercom. What he actually heard was Noc!
Noc always has been very enthusiastic, clever and anxious to bond with his human colleagues. For years, Noc had been analyzing the way the humans spoke with each other.
The diver was certain that he’d heard a voice tell him to get out of the training tank. His supervisor did not give him the order, instead, it was Noc. Noc made the human-like sounds he’d heard by over-inflating his nasal cavity so that it would distort his voice. Noc talks all the time and it’s not always on command.
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