TODAY | October 23, 2012
>>> well, can whales talk? a team of marine biologists in san diego is convinced that a beluga whale was at least trying. nbc's mara schiavocampo is here with more on that story. mara , good morning to you.
>> reporter: good morning. this is such a fascinating story. the whale spent most of his life amusing an amazing marine biologists , and the team has spent decades studying him saying this whale was definitely different than the rest. these sounds may not seem clear to a lot of people, but to some marine biologists what you're hearing is a whale mimicking the human voice . the star of this research project was a beautiful white whale named noisy and he was found in manitoba, canada and later flown to the national marine mammal center for a study. the study team first began to notice human-like sounds in the dolphin and whale enclosure pack in 1984 , sounds they soon figured out had come from the whale .
>> he was the only one who did it to lower the pitch of his voice quite drastically. it was my impression and that of just about everybody that heard it that he was trying to imitate the human voice .
>> reporter: convinced they had no ordinary whale in the study group ridgeway and his group built a special underwater listening platform to capture the sounds and voices coming from the whale .
>> we concluded the whale was making a sound that was very unlike his own normal whale sounds and unlike that of other whales, and he was going to great effort to do this.
>> reporter: their findings reveal a rhythm similar to human speech . frequencies much closer to that of the human voice . several octaves lower than typical whale sounds.
>> reporter: in the 1973 movie " day of the dolphin ," george c. scott teaches a pair of dolphins to speak and understand english. but while some animals and mammals may sound like they are communicating with us, ridgeway says we may never know for sure if the whale actually understood what he was saying.
>> we didn't think that the whale knew what he was saying, and now we may have been wrong about that.
>> reporter: sadly the whale died five years ago, but scientists will continue studying his voice. now at least we know what whales think we sound like.
>> we don't know what he was saying. mara , thanks.