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In Search of the Bowhead Whale (1974)

| Documentary

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Moving and insightful documentary on a rare arctic creature
24 February 2006 | by (Seattle) – See all my reviews

The bowhead whale, along with the right and sperm whales, was one of three whales hunted by the old square-rigger whalers. They hunted them to economic extinction - one year they came home without finding a single whale, and that was it. A few survived, but in 1974, when this film was made, hundreds of whales (of many species) were still being killed every year by factory ships. This film contains archival footage of whale being killed by hand-thrown harpoons, by turret-mounted harpoon guns, and by modern native people. Such footage is rare in these sensitive days, but it is profoundly moving. This historical treatment takes up about a quarter of this 49.5 minute film. The remainder consists of documenting an expedition to the slowly melting spring pack ice in the Bering Sea, where a helicopter, a ground team, and a dive team collect remarkable films of these whales and their companions, the beluga whales, in their native surroundings. The film was shot by Bill Mason, legendary canoeist and one of Canada's great documentary film makers.


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