Famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau once asked, “What is a scientist after all?” He posited his own definition: “It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.”
Cousteau inspired many throughout his lifetime and beyond to respect the natural world, especially marine life and environments. As we continue exploring the ocean’s depths, scientists and documentarians today find themselves looking through “the keyhole of nature” at the strange, beautiful, and enlightening lives of the creatures that call it home.
For the National Geographic crew behind the upcoming “Secrets of the Whales” documentary, not only was the trip a chance to document incredible things, it was an opportunity to show the world something that’s never been seen by humans before!
The documentary, which took three years of globetrotting, filming, editing, and producing to complete, invites viewers to “experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals, and sperm whales.”
While we’ve long known the basics of whale reproduction and community, preview footage from the upcoming doc shows a never-before-seen behavior between two sperm whales. A mother whale and her calf show the intricate process of feeding for the first time on film.
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Sperm whales are mammals, meaning they give live birth and sustain their young on a mother’s milk — but what sets them apart from other mammals like humans, cows, and dolphins, is their unusual anatomy. Until the efforts of the National Geographic crew for “Secrets of the Whales,” scientists had long been unsure how young sperm whales were able to use their pronounced snouts to feed from their mothers’ inverted nipples.
The footage, as seen below, demonstrates for the first time what happens when a nursing pair plunges beneath the surface. Sperm whales can be fiercely protective of their young, often forming protective pods that keep mothers and their children safe.
Though their tremendous size and aquatic environment may make whales seem unapproachably alien, the documentary aims to shed new light on their companionship, culture, and conflicts.
“Secrets of the Whales” will be released April 22nd on Disney+, and promises not just insights into sperm whale nursing, but also the culture of whale pods and world-first recordings of their impressive vocalizations. At 230 decibels, the sperm whale is considered by some to be the loudest animal in the world, according to BBC.
See more footage from “Secrets of the Whales” below and at its official Disney+ page, or learn more about “The Secret Culture of Killer Whales” in this exclusive bonus podcast from National Geographic!
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