Secrets of the Whales plunges viewers into the epicenter of whale culture, to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals, and sperm whales. National Geographic Explorer and photographer Brian Skerry investigates whale wisdom and the complex societies of the world’s largest animals.
Orcas across the globe use unique strategies to stay at the top of the food chain. Patagonia’s whales catch sea lions off the beach, New Zealand’s orcas root out hidden stingrays, and Norway’s sea giants master the tail slap. Orca matriarchs pass family hunting traditions down to the next generation, preserving their way of life before the customs are lost forever.
In a classroom that spans the world’s oceans, from Alaska’s herring-rich coastline to Antarctica’s feeding grounds, humpback calves learn family traditions. Cooperative hunting strategies, the longest migrations of any known mammal, and communicating through complex song to find a mate are all lessons absorbed by the younger generation.
Beluga whales share their northern kingdom in Greenland with a mysterious cousin: the narwhal, a real-life unicorn of the sea. Both species conquer a maze of sea ice on their way to ancestral summering grounds in the Canadian Arctic. Although they follow ancient migration routes, trouble (from freezing environments to fierce predators) lurks at every turn. Only their shared knowledge and power of family can get them through safely.
Dominica, the Azores, and Sri Lanka all witness the layered culture of sperm whales. Relying solely on the next generation’s ability to pick up intricate ways, family culture, and secrets, sperm whales entrust the future to their youngest members.
Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998, he has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine. He was named a National Geographic Society Photography Fellow in 2014 and a National Geographic Society Storytelling Fellow in 2017. He was also awarded the title of Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2017.
For National Geographic Magazine, Skerry’s stories have ranged from the harp seal’s struggle to survive in frozen waters, to the alarming decrease in the world’s fisheries, to dolphin intelligence—all cover stories. A fourth cover story in February 2017 focused on protecting special underwater ecosystems in U.S. waters. During this coverage, Skerry produced the first images of a sitting U.S. president underwater. In 2021, his latest project “Secrets of the Whales” was released as a cover story in National Geographic Magazine, a book, and an Emmy Award-nominated four-part documentary series now streaming on Disney+.
Skerry is an 11-time winner in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. He has also been recognized with awards from Pictures of the Year International, Nature’s Best, and Communication Arts. He is the only photographer to win the coveted Peter Benchley Award for Excellence in Media. In 2010, National Geographic chose an image by Skerry as one of the magazine’s 50 Greatest Photographs of All Time, and in 2016, he received the National Geographic Photographers’ Photographer Award, an honor bestowed by his colleagues. The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences presented Skerry with the 2019 NOGI Award for Arts, an award frequently referred to as the “Underwater Oscar.”
Skerry has lectured on photography, exploration, and conservation at the United Nations General Assembly, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, TED Talks, the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Royal Geographical Society in London, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. He has appeared as a guest on television, including NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s This Morning, and on radio programs across the U.S.
Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues. National Geographic, the most popular brand on Instagram, has more than 215 million followers.
Secrets of the Whales
Featuring: Brian Skerry
Curated by: Kathy Moran
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