Happy Earth Day, everyone.
With the arrival of April 22nd, National Geographic launched their latest series celebrating the creatures of our planet. Available now on Disney+, Secrets of the Whales takes a deep dive (get it?) into the wonderful world of whales. Narrated by Sigourney Weaver, the series focuses on five different species (orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales), the limited series plunges viewers into their incredibly complex systems of communication and social structures, revealing the intricacies of a culture that remains a mystery to those of us who live on land.
Produced by James Cameron, Secrets of the Whales is yet another marvellous journey into the deep blue yonder. Though documentaries about ocean life have become commonplace, Secrets sets itself apart by focusing its lens on several species who feel somehow underrepresented onscreen. (Seriously, when was the last time you saw such gorgeous footage of narwhals, belugas or orcas?) With each episode, the viewer is treated to learn how these creatures navigate the dangers of the wild, migrate instinctively around the world in massive numbers and co-ordinate organized attacks while they hunt.
Though cousins to the Mouse House’s DisneyNature projects, National Geographic opts to take a different approach to their content in the way that they construct their narrative. Whereas Disney’s ‘true life adventures’ give personalities to their subjects by naming them, NatGeo instead takes a more ‘third person’ approach to the narrative. As a result, while the series doesn’t quite feel as personal as its Disney counterparts, it somehow carries a more educational feel to them.
However, that’s not to say that the series feels like a university lecture. Far from it. In fact, through series like this, NatGeo continues to show how far the ‘nature documentary’ has come over the years. Visually stunning and spanning around the globe, every episode of Secrets feels like an engaging journey into the unknown social relationships of these magnificent creatures. Led by Brian Skerry, the series does an excellent job of bringing the viewer into these parts unknown with awe. Without trivializing the unfolding beauty of nature, Weaver’s peaceful narration helps make these creatures become more relatable. By focusing on their family structures, Secrets makes these beasts feel both familiar and new, as we are treated to watching orcas teach their children how to feed and belugas and narwhals protect their groups from invaders.
In this way, Secrets continues the tradition of creating a sense of wonder about the natural world. NatGeo has always done a beautiful job of helping the viewer understand the relevance (and importance) of what they’re seeing and this remains true in this series as well. Featuring stunning footage of these creatures roaming freely within their own habitat, NatGeo recognizes the sheer magnificence of creation. In remarkable moments such as orcas stealing a meal from the beach or humpbacks expressing themselves through song, Secrets sits back and marvels at the artistry and wisdom of these charming beasts. (Even Skerry seems to show a boyish glee when he gets particularly up and close with his subjects, especially the massive number of migrating belugas.)
As it follows these (mostly) gentle giants through the deep, Secrets of the Whales proves to be yet another successful entry into the National Geographic library. With each new discovery, Skerry and his team exhibit the power and beauty of nature that lies before them. Inspiring and beautiful, this series reveals that there are many secrets of our oceans worth uncovering and that we have only just begun to scratch (below) the surface.
Secrets of the Whales is available on Disney+ on Thursday, April 22, 2021.