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We’re Celebrating Whalentine’s Month with Whale Tales and Tails
It’s the month of love, and we LOVE whales! Dolphins, whales and porpoises are all members of the cetacean family. Being mammals, they breathe air, give birth to live young, and produce milk. Fun fact: Cetaceans’ distant ancestors were once land-living creatures that adapted to live in water, their arms becoming flippers and back legs eventually disappearing altogether. Whereas a lot of life forms crawled out of the primordial soup onto land and stayed there, our whales thought their chances were better by going back to the deep – good thinking!
The world would be poorer without these magnificent and mysterious beings and thankfully, after being mercilessly hunted for their body parts, they are acknowledged as hugely important to marine ecosystems and are mostly protected. Whales are well represented in movies, and of course in nature videos on platforms like YouTube. So here are our picks for movies starring whales and entertaining videos that showcase our spectacular fellow earthlings.
Free Willy (1993)
Of course, no list of whale-themed movies would be complete without this feel-good classic. 12-year-old orphan Jesse is caught damaging the orca observation area at Northwest Adventure Park and is forced to clean up the mess. Jesse begins to form a close bond with Willy, a young killer whale taken from his family and held captive. Jesse begins to teach Willy tricks and the park owner Dial sees a money-making opportunity, but when that doesn’t pan out, Dial schemes to have Willy “accidentally” die. Unsurprisingly, Jesse finds out and helps Willy escape and return to his family.
This documentary tells a tragic story about whales in captivity, and how subjecting them to a tiny confined space for the sole purpose of human entertainment and financial reward is horrendously cruel and unusual punishment. The film focuses on Tilikum, a captive orca in SeaWorld involved in the death of three people, including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who he drowned by grabbing her hair and taking her underwater. The film makes a compelling argument for how captivity contributes to heightened aggression and shorter life spans, while also criticising the practices at SeaWorld. While the film was not well received by certain parties (SeaWorld management!) it played a major role in the final demise of the orca programme at SeaWorld.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Star Trek IV sees the original cast on their way back to Earth. However, the appearance of a huge cylindrical container of unknown origin, sending out a signal beyond translation and disabling all surrounding power systems, has caused Starfleet Command to send out a distress call for all spacecraft to avoid Earth. Spock (of course, who else?) manages to figure out that the sounds emitting from the container are the songs of humpback whales – which are now extinct. Our intrepid Star Trek crew travels back in time to 1986 to retrieve some humpback whales (and nuclear vessels to power their craft), and bring them back to 2286 so that they can answer the signal and put everything to right.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
This movie is based on the true story of the New England whaling ship, Essex, whose encounter in 1820 with a giant whale inspired Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick – unarguably the most famous whale in history. After hearing about a large whale pod, the Essex sets sail to find it. Dismissing a warning about a “demon” white whale in the mix, said whale manages to wreck and sink the ship. The survivors manage to scramble onto three harpoon boats, but their nightmare is hardly over as the whale attacks them again, killing more men. The remaining survivors are eventually saved after weeks on the high seas, resorting to cannibalism to stay alive.
The cast of "Heart of the Sea" includes Chris Hemsworth as Owen Chase, Cillian Murphy as Matthew Joy, Brendan Gleeson as Thomas Nickerson, Ben Whishaw as Herman Melville, and Tom Holland as Thomas Nickerson (young).
Finding Dory (2016)
In Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, we discover that Dory learned to ‘speak whale’ by talking through pipes to her childhood buddy Destiny, a shortsighted whale shark. Their reunion takes place in captivity at the Marine Life Institute, where Destiny shares a tank with Bailey, a beluga whale. But when a host of aquatic creatures are in a truck en route to Cleveland, Destiny and Bailey escape and help to free Dory, Marlin, Nemo and new friend Hank the red octopus, who hilariously hijacks the truck taking them to freedom.
And now, some awesome YouTube whale videos…
The Best Whale Moments Captured on Film | Top 5 | BBC Earth
Top 5 clips of amazing whale footage – 1. Orcas and humpback whales feeding together; slapping tails on the water stuns a gigantic ball of herring as whales and orcas – normally enemies – are united in making the most of the bounty. 2. Swimming with giant sperm whales, who are curious, gentle and careful not to harm the diver with their powerful tails. 3. Beautiful mating dance of two humpback whales gets disrupted by a gang of rowdy and aggressive bachelor’s intent on breaking up the party. 4. A gang of orcas homes in on a minke whale and a long chase ensues until the target finally tires and becomes dinner. 5. Sea lions corral a huge ball of sardines as whales, shark, dolphins, tuna and seabirds all take turns at the feast.
The Insane Biology of the Sperm Whale
These are truly exceptional animals, even for whales. They sleep vertically in the water in groups, they’re the loudest whales, actually the loudest animals ever, whose clicks can be heard 100s of km away and, if you are too close, can rupture your eardrums! This short video contains lots of interesting info about these remarkable animals.
My Top 10 Whale jumps. Incredible whales on camera!
It’s utterly amazing that these generously blubber-coated giants can heft their entire multi-ton bodies clear out of the water, but they can – and an unforgettable (and sometimes soaking wet!) experience for whale-watchers out on a boat. We’d like to think that breaching is just a sign of the pure joy for life, but alas – scientists think it may have to do with getting rid of parasites on the skin. Tail slapping and breaching may help dislodge the various goggas that probably cause itchy skin. Whatever the case, watching these whales jumping is deeply satisfying.