New book: The Voices of Marine Mammals

Explores past, present, and future of marine mammal bioacoustics

New Bedford, Mass. – The Voices of Marine Mammals, a new book published by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, honors the groundbreaking work of two scientists who helped shape the way we think about life in the world’s oceans.  William E. Schevill and his collaborator of almost 40 years, William A. Watkins, were the founders of marine mammal bioacoustics research. Their work through the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and elsewhere brought whale “songs” to the world’s attention. The Voices of Marine Mammals: William E. Schevill and William A. Watkins: Pioneers in Bioacoustics fills a significant gap in scholarship and follows the scientific trajectory of bioacoustics research.

No book in the past has focused specifically on the remarkable contributions of these two scientists, although there are numerous publications on whale vocalizations and current threats to overall ocean ecosystem health from noise pollution and other acoustic impacts. The Voices of Marine Mammals examines the field of bioacoustics from Watkins and Schevill’s work through to current technologies and methodologies. Topics include recording and tagging instruments, Watkins and Schevill’s influence, institutional histories, their respective contributions to the field, and their legacy as resources for conservation and research.

In 2017, WHOI donated the instruments, recordings, and research of Watkins and Schevill to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The sound recordings are chock full of the mysterious squeaks, whistles, and clicks that fill a vast underwater world. Seven decades of this data and instruments anchor the Museum’s Whales Today exhibition, which educates the public on whale science and behavior, whales’ impact on different cultures, the current threats to their survival, and current-day conservation efforts.

The Voices of Marine Mammals features contributors from some of the most well-respected institutions in the field, among which are Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews, New England Aquarium, the National Marine Mammal Foundation, the National Park Service, Syracuse University, and the experts on staff at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. 

The 225-page, hard cover book features photos from the Whaling Museum’s collection and from private sources. The publication also includes bonus content in the form of a flexi-disc with audio clips from a record made by Schevill and Watkins in 1962 titled Whale and Porpoise Voices: a phonograph record. The Voices of Marine Mammals is available through the Whaling Museum gift shop, The White Whale, and online at

Tina Malott
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 140


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours: January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; April through December, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $19, seniors (65+) $17, students (19+) $12, child and youth $9. For more information, visit


Downloadable high-res images at:

Cover: The Voices of Marine Mammals - William E. Schevill and William A. Watkins: Pioneers in Bioacoustics

Voices of Marine Mammals book cover


William Schevill and William (Bill) Watkins pictured in their lab at WHOI.

Schevill and Watkins in lab


Below: Watkins and Schevill were the first to routinely photograph the heads of right whales while doing acoustic work in Cape Cod Bay, starting in the 1950s and continuing through the early 1980s. Scoop, a North Atlantic Right Whale (Catalog # 1327) is shown here in two sightings sixty years apart. Top: Photo taken April 13, 1956. Credit Fred Beck/WHOI. Bottom: Photo taken September 12, 2016. Credit Canadian Whale Institute.

Right whale named Scoop in 1956

Right Whale Scoop in 2016


Two North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy. (Photo: Susan Parks under DFO permit)

North Atlantic right whales in Bay of Fundy


Watkins and Schevill helped analyze audio recordings of pinnipeds in the 1960s, like these curious Weddell Seals who seem to be examining a diver. (Photo: M.A. deCamp)

Weddell Seals and diver


This image represents four Eubalaena “right whale” sound waves.

four Eubalaena right whale sound waves