Whales have fascinated humans for centuries. Their size, power, speed and long-distance migrations are understandably very inspiring. Whaling activity might have taken place as early as 1000 B.C. and the Ancient Greeks were aware of whales. Both Icelandic sagas and Native American myths reference them as well. For some Pacific Northwest tribes, whales were clan animals meaning they were viewed as non-human ancestors. Jonah and the Whale may be the most common cetacean-related narrative Westerners recognize, along with Moby Dick.
Today whales show up in our art and media. Authors write books, essays and articles; directors make documentaries and fictional films. If you search on Amazon for whale movies there are dozens of results easily. Whale vocalizations have been recorded to make albums of ‘songs’. The following six short films depict various aspects of whales and our relationships with them. Just like the various stories from centuries ago, they intrigue and delight.
Willem and the Whales - Directed by Kate Miller and Lisa Coscino
Willem is a grade school boy who makes a great point about whale conservation when he says we have killed millions of them, and they have killed none of us.
Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale) - Directed by Sharon Shattuck and Flora Lichtman
This short film shows us just how many species depend upon a whale after it has died. Much like a tree that dies and provides food for insects and plants around it, a dead whale is an abundant source of raw material for many life forms.
The Whale Story - Directed by Tess Martin
This animated short tells a heartwarming story of whale rescue and suggests that whales have a higher intelligence.
The Humpback Microbiome - Directed by Ngyuen Khoi Ngyuen
This film is an overview of humpback whale research being conducted in the waters around Maine and American Samoa. The main point is that there isn’t a way to assess humpback whale health at the moment, but it might be possible some day.
The Loneliest - Directed by Lilian Mehrel
This film is a mockumentary about a search for the loneliest whale in the world. Hard work and determination could actually be as obsession seen through a different lens.
air(verb) - Directed by Lilian Mehrel and Jinelle Wint
About the author
Jake Richardson has enjoyed the outdoors and nature since he was 6-years-old in the woods of central Illinois and now lives in California not far from the John Muir house.