Interviews TV Videos

Nat Geo’s Secrets Of The Whales Dives Into Unknown Whale Cultures & Traditions

Imagine coming face-to-face with a killer whale. The overwhelming feeling of not knowing what’s next sets in as the whale circles you. This could be your last moment on Earth or you’re about to witness the unimaginable.

In National Geographic’s 4-part docu-series Secrets Of The Whales airing on Disney+, a killer whale slowly circles wildlife photographer Brian Skerry in the middle of the ocean not to attack him but to share his dinner with him: the carcass of a giant stingray.

Skerry was overcome with instant fascination, “Part of my brain is thinking, ‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Don’t screw it up,” he told himself.

It’s a breathtaking moment between man and the oceans’ largest predator, showcasing little unknown facts about five different whale species and how they each adapt to a changing climate.

In celebration of Earth Day, we spoke to Skerry about Secrets Of The Whales, capturing this moment, the importance of conservation, and more.

Belugas are extremely social and have been nicknamed the “canary of the sea” because of their rich and varied vocal range. (National Geographic for Disney+/Peter Kragh)

“It was 3 years of fieldwork and it was 24 locations worldwide. We went from the equator to the poles covering five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals, and sperm whales; trying to see them through the lens of culture. When I created Secrets Of The Whales, I have done years of research because I loved this idea of whale culture, the fact they are doing things much like humans. They pass on these ancestral traditions. What I’m building this story on is a foundation of science, so I’m talking to scientists who dedicated their lives to understanding these animals.”

“In terms of how to follow the individual families or pods, you don’t really know what you’re going to get. You can go to a place and never even see a whale. You don’t have full predictability of that,” Skerry continued.

“So often we have looked at animals, whales included, really clinically. We look at it from a distance and say, ‘isn’t that interesting, they do this and they do that but what science is revealing in more recent times with whales, like humans, within a genetically identical species they are doing things differently. The latest greatest science is showing that they have cultures, they have traditions,” said Skerry, who released a book of the same title earlier this month.

“If we can begin to see our planet through the lens of culture with these charismatic ambassadors for the ocean, maybe it’s a bit of a game-changer — we change our view of how we see our own planet. I think that the message here. It’s really about expanding our view of these animals and seeing the oceans and our planet through the lens of animal culture.

To learn more about Secrets Of The Whales check out our full interview in the video above.

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