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A Solitary Whale in Search of Connection

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From director Joshua Zeman, The Loneliest Whale is a story about a solitary cetacean with a call that no other whale can understand. It was first discovered in 1989, when the U.S. Navy detected a mysterious signal in the Pacific Ocean. After months of study, Dr. William Watkins of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts concluded that this strange subaquatic rumble belonged to a whale he dubbed “52,” which was emitting a distinctive 52-hertz frequency that was nothing like other whales that moved in similar migratory patterns. A whale’s call is social, but no response to 52 was ever recorded. Watkins summarized that this singular creature was solitary and unique, possibly the first or last of its kind, a whale unable to find a mate or bond with others of its species. Researchers who tracked the signal of the 52-hertz whale had never set eyes on the whale themselves. In the film, Zeman documents a team as they take on the seemingly impossible task of locating 52 in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.