Premiered Friday, December 4th, 2015, on Smithsonian Channel
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLYLWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2015/12/5 – Using historical reenactments, computer-generated graphics and expert testimony, MobyDick: The Heart of a Whale explores Melville’s literary work and the legend of the whale that turned and attacked its hunters.
Whaling was the beginning of the oil industry, with whale oil used to power oil lamps and also for cooking oil. With those products replaced by kerosene and vegetable oil, whaling has been banned almost everywhere. Japan plans to kill more than 300 whales this year. Whales use sonar to track and hunt objects in the ocean. Navy sonar has become so powerful that it can kill whales, according to the NRDC.
Many have read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. There are questions. Was there a real ship attached by whales? Yes. Was there a crazy captain? The Smithsonian Channel documentary attempts to answer some of these questions.
Drawing from historical accounts of whale attacks, the program goes into the behavior and anatomy of these giant mammals. Weighing as much as sixty tons, they are the largest creatures on the planet. The make very loud sounds. The one-hour documentary details the whaling ship Essex, a nineteenth century ship that went from being the hunter to being hunted by a whale.
In August of 1819 the whale ship Essex set out on a two and a half year voyage to hunt whales in the Pacific. A year into the hunt and a thousand miles west of the Galapagos Islands a giant sperm whale strucked the vessel. With the ship sinking, the crew members set out in three boats, leaving the doomed ship behind. Lost at sea for nearly three months, they sailed 3,500 miles. Only eight of the twenty men survived. First mate Owen Chase later published an account, Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. The whale acted deliberately.
The American whaling industry was based in Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Ships hunted the waters of the Pacific and the sperm whale hunting grounds off the coast of South America. Whales aren’t the only animal that may turn on their hunters with a vengeance. Injured African water buffalo have tracked down the hunters that shot them to attack them back at camp.
Hollywood has been fascinated by Moby Dick. It was first produced as a silent movie in 1926, called The Sea Beast, famed director John Huston directed Moby Dick in 1956 starring Gregory Peck and Orson Welles. Oscar winner Ron Howard has a new movie In the Heart of the Sea, also inspired by Moby Dick.
Moby Dick: Heart of a Whale is produced by Neue Horizonte Film and Medienproduktion Hannover for ZDF in association with ARTE. The director is Jurgen Stumpfhaus. Joy Galane and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.