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"Noc" was a male beluga who lived a pretty incredible life.

Captured by the U.S. Navy when he was only 2 years old, he was trained in the late 1970s to retrieve sunken experimental torpedoes in the bitter cold waters of the Arctic.

What. A. Stud.


There aren't many public photos of Noc, so here's one of his distant cousins saying "hi." Photo by Mike Johnston/Flickr.

According to marine biologist Sam Ridgway, who worked with Noc (pronounced No-See) and other Navy whales, the marine mammals did their jobs dutifully and often formed a deep bond with their trainers.

“They come to think of us as family," Ridgway told Smithsonian magazine. “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."

But being part of a team that tested innovative military technology wasn't even close to the coolest thing Noc ever did.

One day during training in 1984, a Navy diver swore he heard his supervisor give a command over the intercom. Turns out, it was Noc.

Always energetic, precocious, and eager to bond with his human colleagues, Noc had been studying the way they spoke to each other for years.

The diver swore he heard a voice order him out of the training tank. But his supervisor gave no such order. It was all Noc, who made the human-like sounds by over-inflating his nasal cavity in order to distort his voice.

From then on, Noc spoke often, and even on command. Give him a listen:

It might not sound like much at first, but listen again. There's something distinctly human about the sounds, like some kind of warbled underwater dialogue.

Noc's handlers were stunned.He had learned to imitate human speech patterns.

And while Noc might not have been as good of a mimic as some bird species, it's likely his humanlike warbles had intent behind them, like he was trying to tell us something — that he was in distress, happy, or even just bored.

Though his mimicry was one-of-a-kind, Noc isn't the only whale with amazing auditory powers.

We know that most whales have powerful hearing abilities like Noc — blue whales can communicate with each other over distances of nearly 1,000 miles.

But what's even cooler is that beyond listening, whales can also use sound to understand their worlds in an almost human way.

According to Lori Marino, a cetacean intelligence specialist at Emory University:

Their brain "brings things together, synthesizes and does complex processing in ways we obviously don't understand yet. But it's not as though we have this huge complex whale brain and no commensurately complex behavior. They are individuals. They have lives to lead and social relationships. They have families, and they have really good memories."

So why haven't there been more cases of whale communication like Noc's?

This thing just looks loud. Photo by David B. Gleason/Flickr.

One explanation: noise pollution.

Whales in the wild are often forced to compete with overpowering noise from massive supertankers and huge oil machinery when they try to listen for other sounds.

This noise can disrupt a whale's ability to communicate, navigate, hunt, and breed. The noise has even been linked to declining beluga numbers over the years.

Even captive whales, which should have enough human interaction to replicate what Noc was able to do, are apparently bombarded by noise. Places like SeaWorld are so loud, in fact, that the whales pretty much just turn their ears off.

If we can find a way to quell the racket, maybe we'll find another Noc someday.

As humans, we fantasize about one day bridging the language gap with animals. We teach sign language to gorillas. We train parrots to speak. We even invent devices that supposedly translate our dogs' barks into English.

Maybe it's fantasy to think we'll ever truly share a language with another species. But it's exciting to think there might be creatures out there, just like Noc, who want to talk to us just as badly as we want to talk to them.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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