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Listen to the Whale ‘Talking’ Like a Human

An amazing new sound recording has been made of a beluga whale making noises that sound eerily similar to human speech. Researches were shocked when they recorded the animal at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California and even mistook its noises for one of their colleagues.

Previously, dolphins have been taught to mimic the sounds a human voice makes, but never before has an animal done it spontaneously of its own free will. The researchers first discovered it when a diver surfaced from the whale's pool asking, "Who told me to get out?".

At first they couldn't work out where the noises were coming from, but after narrowing down the possibilities, there was only one option left: it was the nine-year-old whale named NOC. After realising this, they were able to train him to perform the noises on command and recorded the results.

Amazingly, it not only lowered its normal calls by several octaves, but it also released them in short bursts with pauses in between- just like a human conversation.

Sam Ridgway, president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, was left with little doubt: "The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale."

Have a listen for yourself to the astonishing recording below.

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Fire Tornado(!) Caught on Film

Regular tornados are terrifying enough, but have you ever heard of one made of fire!? Fire whirls, as they are known, are one of nature's rarest sights but luckily, a filmmaker was on hand to tape one in Australia this week.

Chris Tangey was out in Alice Springs looking for locations for his latest movie when he was met by a 30-metre high tower of swirling flames. Fortunately, he was at a safe enough distance to stay out of harm's way and be able to capture the stunning spectacle on camera. He described the experience:

"I was about 300-metres away and there was no wind but the tornado sounded like a fighter jet. My jaw just dropped. I've been shooting in the outback for 23 years and I have never seen anything like it. We've heard about them but they're never seen. It's a once in ten lifetimes experience."

These rare events occur when a column of warm, rising air either causes or comes in to contact with a fire on the ground. The rising, swirling air then sucks up the fire, with spectacular and sometimes devastating results. Unsurprisingly they can be very dangerous if they come into contact with people or buildings, and one name for them is simply ‘fire devils'. Although they usually only last for a couple of minutes, amazingly this one went on for more than 40 minutes.

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