Humpback Whales (2015) Movie Script

When I began studying humpback
whales almost 50 years ago,
there was very little funding
for such research.
I'd like to thank
the Pacific Life Foundation
for their unparalleled
generosity in supporting
the conservation of humpback
whales and other marine mammals.
Enabling a better future
is what Pacific Life does;
and their support of a healthy
ocean benefits all of us,
whales as well as people.
NARRATOR: Our planet holds
a kind of parallel universe.
A place of wonder
where giants roam free.
For thousands of years,
we could only wonder
about humpback whales.
Now, by exploring their world,
we're getting surprising
glimpses into their lives.
A 40-ton adult appears
weightless in its ocean home.
Though longer than a school bus,
these 50-foot giants are nimble.
With a wingspan
greater than most Learjets,
humpbacks are
magnificent acrobats.
(whales singing)
Often seen in shallow waters,
these mammals occasionally dive
to a depth of 1,000 feet.
Each bump on their heads
contains a single stiff hair,
which may help them
sense their environment.
Today, we celebrate them...
but it wasn't always so.
Whales were hunted
for hundreds of years
and rendered into oil
to light our cities.
When whalers developed
exploding harpoons,
these giants had no chance.
We nearly wiped humpback whales
off the face of the planet.
Then, during the Cold War,
a U.S. Navy observer,
recording the hum
of Soviet submarines,
heard something mysterious.
The otherworldly calls
of humpback whales.
Humpbacks string
their songs together
in a continuous river of sound.
The music of the deep.
(whales singing)
In the 1970s, when these
recordings were studied
by scientists
Roger Payne and Scott McVay,
they recognized that
the seemingly random noises
were actually precise rhythmic
patterns of sound, or "songs."
When record albums
were released,
the humpbacks' songs
changed millions of hearts.
People from many nations
joined together
to support a ban
on killing whales.
The song of the humpback
helped us to begin
to understand, finally,
that whales are
magnificent, complex beings
worthy of protection,
worthy of life.
This was our turning point.
(whales singing)
The South Pacific.
The humpback population here
was hard-hit by whaling.
In Tonga, there were only
about 50 mature females left.
In 1978, when the king of Tonga
banned the killing of whales,
the humpbacks here slowly began
to recover, one calf at a time.
Today in Tonga,
there are about 2,000 humpbacks,
a fraction of what once was,
but it's a start.
The humpback resurgence
has now sparked
a whale-watching boom here.
The increased tourism has raised
the standard of living
for the local people,
like Ali Takau.
(toy squeaks)
My grandfather was a whaler.
He hunted humpbacks
to feed our family.
Instead of killing humpbacks,
Ali works hard to save them.
(woman speaking native language)
(kids exclaiming)
The future of our humpbacks
depends on these children.
I tell the kids
about the whaling days,
so we never have
that kind of killing again.
My job is taking
tourists and scientists
out to see the humpbacks.
NARRATOR: Now these magnificent
whales have begun to recover.
Each calf is critical
to Tonga's fragile resurgence.
After a full year of pregnancy,
mothers give birth
to a single 14-foot baby.
What's it like to be
a newborn humpback,
floating in a vast blue world,
where your only landmark
is a mountain of mother?
(whales singing)
Humpbacks share
these idyllic waters
with a whole community
of marine life.
The remora fish
come along for the ride.
Even when the mother sleeps,
the newborns don't stray far
from mother's milk.
(high-pitched bellowing)
But after a few weeks,
the calves get bolder,
and they take off on their own.
They're so curious.
And they've got so much energy.
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh
These newborns learn
by copying their mothers.
In their first year,
they double in size.
J "'Oh!
Ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh
Once they get the hang of it,
there's no stopping them.
Ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh.
Each calf stays with its mother
only about one year
to learn about the world.
How to migrate
thousands of miles.
What to eat and how to find it.
Who to trust and who to fear.
Whalers like my grandfather
once targeted
mothers and calves,
because they move so slowly.
I always loved my grandfather,
but he didn't understand
the need to stop killing whales.
NARRATOR: The killing
stopped here in Tonga,
but not everywhere.
Three nations...
Japan, Norway and Iceland...
Still allow commercial
and scientific whaling.
Today, fewer people
kill whales on purpose,
but we now kill them
without even knowing it.
When a ship collides
with a whale,
the impact is often fatal.
And the number of ships on
the world's oceans has doubled
in the last 12 years.
There is something we can do
about these fatal collisions.
One solution is
to slow down ships,
or reroute them to avoid the
migratory pathways of whales.
Here in Tonga,
mothers go for months
with almost nothing to eat.
To find food, the humpback
whales in Tonga head south
to the frigid, bountiful waters
of Antarctica.
(birds singing)
Many humpbacks in the North
Pacific Ocean migrate to Alaska.
(squawking and squeaking)
(squawking and bellowing)
(birds singing)
Dr. Fred Sharpe has been
studying the behaviors
of humpback whales here
for the past 25 summers.
(boat horn sounds)
Most of the time, humpback
whales in Alaska feed on krill.
These small, shrimp-like
crustaceans thrive here,
in waters enriched by upwelling
currents and glacial nutrients.
The tiny krill
might be harder to catch
if humpback whales had teeth,
but they don't.
About three hours away,
about three hours away.
FRED SHARPE: Instead of teeth,
humpback whales have baleen.
It's a kind of strainer
that hangs
from the roof of their mouth.
It lets the water through,
but allows them
to trap these tasty morsels,
like the fish and the krill.
(high-pitched bellowing)
When we're trying
to locate big feeding pods,
it's almost like
you're coming home to family.
Fred has studied
these particular whales
for so long...
Bubbles! Bubbles!
that he can often tell
who's vocalizing
just by listening.
(bellowing, sputtering
and vocalizing)
We know who is who,
because each of these whales has
a really distinctive tail fluke.
They're kind of like
a fingerprint.
No two are exactly alike.
(camera shutter clicking)
So... I run the prints.
This is Melancholy.
I've really come to know him
over the past 20 years,
from studying his behaviors
and even sketching him.
I often see Melancholy
with another male,
who we call Vulture.
(high-pitched vocalizing)
Many whales feed individually,
but Melancholy and his crew have
learned a really cool strategy.
They can capture more fish
by working together as a team.
When we hear the feeding calls
and see the whales
group together,
we know we're in
for quite a show.
What happens next is
one of the most incredible
and complex animal behaviors
ever observed.
It's called
"group bubble-net feeding."
The first step is always
the synchronized dive.
Some of the whales dive deep
underneath the school of herring
to drive them up
towards the surface.
With their long
pectoral flippers,
they can outmaneuver
fast-moving prey.
The bubble specialist
blows a stream of bubbles,
forming a spiraling wall of air
that acts like a net to keep
the fish from getting away.
The designated vocalizer begins
to make almost
deafening sounds...
(high-pitched vocalizing)
scaring the fish up
towards the surface.
(high-pitched vocalizing)
(high-pitched vocalizing)
(water gurgling)
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh,
oh-oh-oh, oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh,
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh,
oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
Do, ooh-ooh-ooh,
ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh
Do, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh...
The humpback mouth
expands so wide,
they could swallow a small car.
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh,
oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh,
oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh, oh...
They can eat up to a ton of food
in a single day.
That's like 8,000 hamburgers.
(birds singing and squawking,
whales bellowing)
(whale bellowing)
Well, as it starts to get cold
up here in the fall,
Melancholy, Vulture and all
the other whales begin to leave.
They'll travel
thousands of miles
down to their warm-water
breeding areas
like Costa Rica,
Mexico and Hawaii.
Some humpbacks migrate
5,000 miles one way every year...
One of the longest known
migrations of any mammal.
There are 15 distinct
populations of humpback whales,
located in all the oceans
of the world.
They feed in polar
and subpolar regions,
and breed and give birth
in the Tropics.
(bird squawking in distance)
Each winter,
the Hawaiian Islands host
the largest gathering of
humpbacks in the North Pacific.
Thousands of whales.
Humpbacks may live
up to 80 years or more.
They seem as curious about us
as we are about them.
(whales singing)
Other whales and dolphins
but humpbacks make
a greater variety of sounds
than any other whale...
- including grunts...
- (whale grunts)
- groans...
- (whale groaning)
- thwops...
- (deep burbling)
- snorts...
- (snorting)
- and barks.
- (high-pitched barking)
When humpbacks leap, or breach,
they make it look easy.
No other whale
leaps so high so often.
We're not exactly sure
why they do it,
but we're glad they do.
I had a dream
so big and loud
I jumped so high
I touched the clouds
Whoa, oh, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I stretched my hands
out to the sky
We danced with monsters
through the night
Whoa, oh, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I'm never gonna look back,
whoa, oh
I'm never gonna
give it up, no
Please don't wake me now
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
This is gonna be
the best day of my life
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
S' Whoo S'
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
- Whoo
- (squeaks)
I howled at the moon
with friends
And then the sun
came crashing in
Whoa, oh, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
But all the possibilities
No limits, just epiphanies
Whoa, oh, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I'm never gonna
look back, whoa
I'm never gonna
give it up, no
Just don't wake me now
- (music pauses)
- (man chuckles)
- Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
- (whooping)
This is gonna be
the best day of my life
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
This is gonna be
the best day of my life
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
My li-i-i-i-i-ife.
(song ends)
(whale singing)
(whale singing)
On a quiet morning in Hawaii,
you can hear
hundreds of humpbacks
in their hidden world below,
all singing at once.
(whale sings)
A reminder of how their songs
began changing our hearts
so many years ago.
(whales singing)
Today, Dr. Jim Darling lowers
the hydrophone into the water,
just as he did decades ago
when Roger Payne
first invited him here
to record humpback whales.
(whale singing)
For scientists like Jim,
finding singers isn't easy,
but there are clues.
When whales dive, they leave
a slick spot on the surface...
what researchers call
a footprint.
Sometimes when Jim looks down
through the footprint,
he spots a singer.
(whales singing)
All the singers in Hawaii
start each breeding season
singing the same song.
(whale singing)
Incredibly, when one singer
changes his song,
they all adopt
those same changes.
By comparing the latest song
against previous versions,
Jim can pinpoint
exactly what has changed.
Jim's colleague,
Dr. Meagan Jones,
helps him search
for those changes in the song.
Two years ago, Jim recorded
a song with a really
distinctive phrase.
That's really different.
(whales barking, singing)
We started calling it "chuckles"
because it made us laugh.
(barking, singing continue)
But this year, the chuckles
are starting to disappear.
(barking continues)
After years of study,
scientists were surprised
to discover
the singers were all males.
While the males
are busy singing,
what are the females up to?
Dr. Meagan Jones studies
the behavior
of female humpbacks.
It's not easy,
because they spend 90%
of their time underwater,
out of sight.
So she catches only glimpses.
JONES: One of the most
important questions
I'm trying to answer is
how females choose their mates.
No one has ever observed mating
between humpbacks.
But we often see a male and
female pair resting together.
Just before and just after,
we see males fighting
over the females.
The battle-scarred male escort
is actually on guard,
watching and listening
for his rivals.
When intruders show up,
he tries to fight them off.
20 males pursuing
just one female.
We think the males are vying
for the prime spot,
closest to the female.
The escort will use
all kinds of tactics
to defend his position.
He streams bubbles.
He lunges...
and even collides
with other males.
JONES: ls the female
leading these males?
Or is she being chased?
We're not sure...
but we think she wants to mate
as soon as possible
so she can return to Alaska
and resume eating.
For whales, bigger mothers
often make better mothers.
She needs to be
in the best physical condition
when she gives birth
the following year.
This chase lasted
four grueling hours.
We think the competition
may allow the female
the opportunity to select
the fittest mate.
One day, just as the other
male rivals swam away,
the male and female pair
stayed around
and circled our boat
for well over an hour.
At first, we thought the female
was swimming upside down
and using the boat
to discourage the male.
But as we watched
the pair circle
and dance around each other
and us,
it became clear
that at least in this case,
the female was following him
as much as the male
was following her.
Was this courtship?
Was she trying to attract him?
This is what we think
may be happening,
but until we see mating,
we can just never be sure.
For me, these are
the best kind of days,
when new observations
lead to new questions.
NARRATOR: When Meagan
is out studying whales,
she sometimes runs
into the real dangers they face,
like loose, floating debris.
major threat to the animals.
NARRATOR: More than half of
these humpback whales bear scars
from being tangled up in ropes
and fishing nets.
This humpback whale population
is growing,
but we think worldwide
the humpback population
may be only 40% of what it was
before whaling began.
Some of the most serious
problems facing whales
have no immediate solution.
But when individual whales
get entangled,
some of them can be saved
by rescue teams,
like the one here in Hawaii.
MAN: Joe, let's see
if we can get underway in five.
MAN 2:
GPS coordinates set.
(indistinct chatter)
NARRATOR: Most rescues start
with a phone call from a boater.
Reporting entangled whales
is one important way
to help humpbacks.
MAN (over walkie-talkie):
Looking for your position.
NARRATOR: The team caught up
to the entangled whale
in just under an hour.
ED LYMAN: This young,
energetic humpback whale
was trailing more than 200 feet
of line and buoys behind it.
Each entanglement is different,
so team leader Ed Lyman
has to keep adjusting
his strategy.
MAN: Keep an eye out.
We don't want to lose it.
NARRATOR: If this young whale
is not set free by Ed's team,
he could die from infection,
or even drowning.
A key tool is their grapple.
That's how they hook
onto the trailing gear
and then pull themselves close
enough to cut the whale free.
We attach a transmitter
to help track the whale,
in case we lose it,
and buoys to keep it
from diving deep.
Even with extensive training,
it's dangerous
for Ed and Joe to get so close
to a huge animal under stress.
We work entirely from boats.
People have been killed jumping
in the water to cut whales free.
Let's be careful here!
LYMAN: If we hear signs of
stress, like a trumpeting blow,
we back off.
Our pole cam gives us
an underwater view
and helps us see
what's going on.
We need to get this gear off.
These wounds are... are bad.
These young ones,
they're unpredictable.
Our whale makes a sudden U-turn
and snags his gear
on a nearby boat,
so we race back
to cut the boat free.
You got it? Okay, good.
Next side.
LYMAN: As soon as we cut
that line, he takes right off.
Even dragging all those buoys,
the whale is just pulling us
too fast.
We actually got
what the old-time whalers call
a Nantucket sleigh ride.
Let me help you.
(indistinct chatter)
- Still running hard.
- Yeah.
LYMAN: We attach a sea anchor
to slow it down.
Okay, knife is out.
You're doing good.
Okay, here,
I'm right beside you.
NARRATOR: Finally,
the whale slows down enough
to give Ed a clean angle.
So he moves in for the cut.
Perfect. Right there.
And... here comes.
(indistinct chatter)
- Okay.
- Oh, nice slice!
(whale bellows)
(whale singing)
It all went their way today,
but it doesn't always work out.
Even Ed's heroic team
can't save every whale.
But you and I can help reduce
the number
of entangled humpbacks.
Encourage the use
of whale-safe gear,
and keep debris out
of the ocean.
I'm in awe of humpback whales.
For centuries,
men in boats brought them pain
and death.
It brings us such joy
to flip that around
and bring them life instead.
It took hundreds of years
for people all across the world
to wake up
and hear the song
of the humpbacks.
In the early days,
humpbacks were known
as our guardians.
Now it's our turn.
(whales singing)
Future generations of scientists
have their work cut out
for them.
Each new insight scientists gain
into these remarkable whales
helps us protect them against
the growing threats they face.
Oceans cover 71% of our planet,
and humpbacks roam them all.
Just one look in their eye
will tell you
we have much more to learn
about their world.
And to think,
we nearly missed that chance.
(whale singing)
I had a dream
so big and loud
I jumped so high
I touched the clouds
Whoa, oh, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I stretched my hands out
to the sky
We danced with monsters
through the night
Whoa, oh, oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I'm never gonna look back,
I'm never
gonna give it up, no
Please don't wake me now
Two, three, four
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
This is gonna be the best day
of my life
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
My li-i-i-i-i-ife
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
This is gonna be the best day
of my life
Whoo, whoo, ooh, ooh
My li-i-i-i-i-ife.
(whale singing)