The pursuit of loneliness

Hayley Campbell quit her job and moved into an empty flat. Here she explains the tough but peculiar pleasures of seclusion

 
Photo by Sam Barker for The Observer

Photo by Sam Barker for The Observer

Since the late 1980s, scientists have been tracking a whale who sings at a sonic frequency higher than any other whale of its species: at 52 hertz, just above the lowest note on a tuba. It sings songs no one answers.

Internet societies have been following it for years like sad Ahabs, transposing their own feelings on to it, believing they understand it. Alone in their bedrooms they hunt this whale they believe to be lonely just like them. Talk to scientists and they will say other whales can probably hear it, maybe it’s deaf, maybe the whale’s song is the result of a genetic mutation. But it doesn’t matter: the lonely people have taken this whale as their totem. I’ve followed it for years.

Read more at The Observer Magazine.