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The LONELIEST WHALE: THE SEARCH FOR 52

The LONELIEST WHALE: THE SEARCH FOR 52

Joshua Zeman · USA · 2021 · 97 mins · G
IMDb86%

For a creature who nobody’s seen, the whale known as 52 has quite a following. In an unexpected bonus of Cold War counterintelligence, its vocalizations, at a unique-to-whales frequency of 52 hertz, were discovered through naval sonar in 1989. Subsequently these sounds were tracked for a dozen years by William Watkins, a specialist in marine mammal bioacoustics. That 52’s calls through the oceans seemingly went unanswered suggested that it was the only one of its kind, and this lonesome-cetacean story was the subject of a 2004 New York Times article that turned it into a cultural sensation.

What could be more achingly poetic than the idea of a mateless beast traveling the world’s seas, unable to even communicate with another whale? One of the many people captivated by this marine mystery was documentarian Joshua Zeman (The Sons of SamCropsey), who turned his curiosity into action. The Loneliest Whale finds him and an ace team of scientists embarking on a mission to find 52.

There’s a bright buoyancy to the scientists assembled for Zeman’s project — their delight in every discovery or heartening sign, their even-keeled responses to setbacks. The film’s epilogue caps the action with a rapturous surprise. The doc is a reminder that we still know so little about the oceans and their inhabitants, and an illustration of how much hope we attach to them.

“Both invigorating and calming to watch.”—TIME Magazine

“Zeman's voyage into the heart of the sea, a modern day "Moby Dick" with a conservationist bent, surprises, delights and will keep you on the edge of your seat, because the search for anything mysterious and elusive will always deliver the unexpected.” –Tribune News Service

     
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