What Unicorns Sound Like

We now know what unicorns sound like.

Narwhal tusks were often viewed as being unicorn horns (alicorn) during the medieval and early modern periods, in part because they are long and spiraled.

Tracking Narwhals in Greenland
Note the spiral tusk

Narwhal tusk was probably first harvested by Danish sailors around Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland and sold as unicorn horn in the medieval period. Other European nations got into the trade during the early-modern period as the rush for America intensified. Incidentally, the existence of unicorn horn was argued as proof for the Northwest Passage by Humphrey Gilbert, the colonial projector who planted England’s first colony in the New World.

Pomet Sea Unicorn 2 copy
An engraving of a Sea Unicorn from Pomet’s History of Drugges (London, 1737)

Over time, it became clear to learned authorities, such as Pierre Pomet, that the sea unicorn was in fact not a type of unicorn that lived in the ocean, but rather a type of whale with a really long tusk.

And now, thanks to modern science, we know what these unicorns/whales sound like.

Greeneridge Sciences partnered with Greenland Institute of Natural Resources to tag narwhals off the coast of eastern Greenland and record not only their movements but also their sounds.

Below is a playlist of greatest hits of the eastern Greenland narwhals. Now we know what unicorns sound like.


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