A New Film Captures the Majesty of Blue Whales

Decades ago, blue whales were on the brink of extinction. The largest animals to have ever lived on Earth (including dinosaurs), the species has been a huge target for whalers hunting their valuable blubber, especially during the early 1900s following the invention of mechanized harpoons and fast-traveling factory ships. In the 1930–31 season alone, 30,000 blue whales perished, according to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

In response to this mass slaughter, the IWC banned the hunting of blue whales in 1966. Under increased protection, the species that nearly disappeared has been steadily recovering over the past few decades. Blue Whales: Return of the Giants (2023) is a new documentary taking a deep dive into this remarkable story of survival and rebuilding, now on view daily in 2D at the American Museum of Natural History.

A diver films a colony of krill underwater.

Narrated by Andy Serkis and directed by Hugh Pearson, the 45-minute film explores the fascinating undersea lives of blue whales and provides a close-up look at a relatively understudied creature, historically difficult to research due to its still-small population sizes and vast distribution across the ocean. The film also shows the extreme research missions undertaken by marine biologists in an effort to learn more about these oceanic titans.

Through the lens of two different marine expeditions, viewers will get an opportunity to learn about researchers’ quest to find a missing population of whales off the coast of East Africa and join Diane Gendron — known as the “Blue Whale Whisperer” — and her team as they study whale families in the Gulf of California. 

As of yesterday, July 10, audiences can reserve timed tickets online to view the film at the museum’s LeFrak Theater, located on the first floor. Prices start at $28 for adults, $16.50 for children between the ages of three and 12, and $22.50 for seniors and students. Members are welcome to view the film for free.

A blue whale lifts its massive tail above the water.

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