Filming whales is a tough assignment, as we’re frequently reminded in this first of a series devoted to them. But boy, the results can be stunning. Get past the window-dressing in tonight’s opener about the lengths the cameramen had to go to or the dangers they overcame and the scenes of whale behaviour are riveting and beautiful.
Stephen Fry narrates in tones of sing-song wonder as we watch enchanting footage of bowhead whales among the Arctic ice. Wrapped in 50 tons of blubber, bowheads are the fattest animals on the planet but also, reassuringly perhaps, some of the longest lived: the creatures we see may be 200 years old.
Having endured centuries of hunting, they are understandably secretive. Less shy are the male humpback whales ramming and barging each other in their attempts to mate with a female. When the female eventually makes her choice and elopes with him, the rejected males take to “caressing each other in a graceful ballet” for all the world as if they are offering consolation. After all the testosterone, it’s a touching sight.