On Location With Whales
Our crew traveled to Newfoundland on short notice to document the freeing of a net-entangled humpback whale by whale researcher Dr. Jon Lien. Dr. Lien is part of the Whale Research Group at the University of Newfoundland and has helped free hundreds of humpbacks over the last decade.
Fishing nets are a serious problem for whales. The whales seem to get entangled in them either because they don't see the fine-mesh nets or they are drawn into them while feeding. Powerful as they are, whales are helpless when entrapped in these nets and would likely perish without the assistance of people like Dr. Lien. The whale we filmed was successfully released.
(Excerpted from production notes.)
Besides the whales and dolphins, amazing footage of other marine animals was obtained in Hawaii, including manta rays with wingspans of 8-12 feet. Shot at night, the footage shows the mantas feeding on abundant swarms of krill, flying 360 degree loops and coming out of the night with their mouths agape heading right for the camera.
The Whales crew travelled to the Patagonia region of Argentina, where wind off the 300 foot seacliffs was blowing in gusts of 50 knots upon arrival. However, the storm unexpectedly abated and the wind dropped to a just manageable 10 knots.
"The underwater Patagonia footage is remarkable. In one shot, a camera is actually knocked to the surface by a passing whale's tail! The Patagonia film includes a rare white right whale calf with its mother (less than a dozen exist at any one time) and dynamic images of whales breaching, playing and tailfluke sailing." (from production notes)
Much of the Alaskan footage was shot from the Odyssey, the research vessel of the Whale Conservation Institute. It proved to be a perfect platform from which the crew could live and work. But to get the necessary close-up shots, the crew used an inflatable raft with a special gyro mount on the front to stabilize the camera in the waves. Getting close, however, was not without its risks. During one shoot, a whale accidentally came up under the boat, raising it out of the water.
Produced by National Wildlife Federation, Destination Cinema and Zephyr Productions. Major funding provided by the National Wildlife Federation Endowment and by the National Science Foundation. Producers: Christopher Palmer, David Clark. Directors: David Clark, Al Giddings, and Dr. Roger Payne. Distributed by National Geographic Giant Screen Films. Japanese Distributor: Cinema Japan Co., Ltd. Executive Produced by Richard James. Editor: James Lahti. Writers: Dr. Roger Payne, Mose Taylor, and Dr. Leighton Taylor. Narrated by Patrick Stewart. Composer: Sam Cardin, with feature song by Yanni.
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