Coming from director Joshua Zeman and Bleeker Street is the story of the ocean and what creature has come to be known as THE LONELIEST WHALE.
Zeman takes us on a journey to tell a story that is unknown by most, yet we all are fascinated by the sea where it takes place. It is 1989 in the Pacific Ocean when the United States Navy is using under water surveillance called SOSUS to listen for enemy subs during the Cold War era. During a surveillance they discovered a sound that they could not identify registering at 52 hertz which was not a submarine. It was a low 52 hertz sound that repeated itself over and over with no reply.
Enter Dr. William Watkins of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who deduced that it was a whale calling out for others of its kind. He called the whale “52” believing it was a solitary whale with no other of its kind. In 2004, after tracking 52 for over twelve years, the whale was about to become the focus of fascination worldwide.
Hearing about the 52 Hertz Whale is director Zeman, and it was then that the tale of a sad and lonely whale captivated him. Researching the story, he would soon discover that he was not the only won who could not stop thinking about 52. He discovered songs, paintings, and all manner of expression from those who connected with the whale.
After a whale watching trip, Zeman wondered if it were possible to find 52 after all these years. Locating Bruce Mate from the Marine Mammal Institute, he asked if it was possible to look for the lonely whale. With no one ever actually laying eyes on 52, it became an even bigger adventure for Zeman and Mate.
Another challenge would be to raise fund for such a search. They would need cameras, a boat, scientists, and research equipment. Adrian Grenier and Leonardo DiCaprio donated because of their concern for ocean conservation. After trial and error, it would be Dr. John Hildebrand from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UCSD who would help them. But there are so many more people that made the expedition to find 52 possible with their data and ears to the water.
Hildebrand says, “Everybody loves whales. It is hard not to love them. They are very majestic animals, and they are mammals like us. I think the thing is most people think we know a lot more about whales and the ocean and marine mammals than we actually do. You can value and love and appreciate something and not know everything about it, and maybe that’s part of the attraction, the mystery.”
This group of dedicated believers want only one thing, to hear 52 once again and know that perhaps he has found what his call has been looking for through the years. Their excitement and joy in the expedition can bring answers that the world has been asking for, ‘where is 52?’
Bleeker Street is a New York City film company that has brought outstanding films to the public. Their library includes TRUMBO, DENIAL, THE LOST CITY OF Z, BEIRUT, HOTEL MUMBAI, ORDINARY LOVE and THE ROADS NOT TAKEN. For more information on the titles from Bleeker Street please visit www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com.
Director Zeman says of 52, “No one’s loneliness is cut from the exact same cloth as anyone else’s, but this one story of a whale brought us all together. This creature is more alone than any of us could ever imagine, and yet refuses to give up, continues to call out, hoping to one day be heard. It is a story that I want to share with other – one that inspires us to have hope and reminds us that the bonds of love, friendship, and family we share must remain meaningful as we navigate the vast oceans of our ever-changing world.”
This is truly a lovely documentary because it is based on fascination and a wonderment that has lasted for years. The continual song of one whale changed so much about the way scientists and people see what was in our oceans. A song of longing is the way 52’s life has been seen until this point and Zeman is responsible for taking his fascination and bringing it to life.
The difficult expedition could have been daunting to some, but Zeman found the same fascination in scientists and others who wanted to be part of something amazing and wonderful. This documentary lets us share in their journey of discovery and the amazing range of emotions with a search that brings joy to us all.
In the end – it is a call that has kept us fascinated!