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At the Movies: Secrets of the Whales

Image: Jonas Bratland

I went with my mom and my daughter on a weekend trip to Acadia National Park several years ago over Memorial Day weekend. We booked a whale watching tour, even though it was still early in the season. There was a chance we might see whales, but there was also a greater chance we’d just get seasick, which is what two out of three of us did. I think I slept the entire boat ride back from our fruitless three-hour excursion.

I really wanted to see whales in the wild, but with so much ocean out there and only so much time to wait, how could I be disappointed? I was just one small shrimp on a dinghy floating off the coast of Bar Harbor. What did the whales care if I saw them or not? They had other things to do.

Luckily for me, we exist in an age that can capture footage of Earth’s most unusual and hard-to-reach creatures, edit it down, package it up, and ship it out through satellite technology to access instantly on our TVs. 

I don’t even need to take Dramamine.

Secrets of the Whales

Secrets of the Whales is a nature documentary mini-series from National Geographic, available on Disney+. The series was filmed across 24 locations by underwater photographer Brian Skerry and features humpbacks, orcas, narwhals, belugas, and sperm whales as they navigate their intricate migratory routes, sing their complex songs, choreograph their hunting dance, and more. 

The series unveils an underwater world of culture, family, love, grief, and joy, unlike you’ve ever seen in any marine life amusement park.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

“Consider the ravens,” Jesus told his disciples in Luke 12:24 (NIV). “Consider how the wild flowers grow,” he continued in Luke 12:27 (NIV).

God invites us to consider his creation. The time and effort we invest into that practice open worlds of wonder. The universe, the galaxies, the creatures swimming throughout our world’s oceans, all of them and more provoke awe and humility.

For Secrets of the Whales, Brian Skerry spent a lot of time considering creation.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he asserts that the key to achieving expertise in an area is to spend at least 10,000 hours studying it, rehearsing it, practicing it, and fine tuning it. It’s called the “10,000 hour rule.”

I think that makes Skerry an expert in whales. 

Skerry spent three years observing and filming whales for Secrets of the Whales. Sure, he probably took some breaks and slept and ate from time to time. Regardless, if you spend three years doing anything, you’re likely to pick up expert-level skills or credentials.

Jesus’ closest followers spent the same amount of time walking with, learning from, and doing life alongside the Son of God. What they observed about Jesus during those three years revolutionized humanity’s understanding of God and what it means to be human.

That kind of close attention changes you.

Look at anything closely for an extended period of time and it will begin to tell you its secrets. Its deceptive simplicity will unfold, revealing layers and layers of magnificent intricacies. 

It is as if God has packed encyclopedias of his goodness into everything he made. We’ve been looking closely at the world for centuries now, billions of us, and we still haven’t gotten to the end of the story God wrote into creation. 

Just when we think we know, a new depth is discovered. A new height is reached. A farther galaxy is found. We thought we had looked close enough, but someone looked just a little bit closer, and wow, what a world they discovered.

To hear the story they have to tell about the wonders of existence, Skerry listened to and watched the whales. The tales he shares in this mini-series will change the way you think about these massive creatures and enlarge your sense of awe for our mutual Creator. 

There is more, far more, happening below the waves than we’d ever imagined. There are creatures that learn and compose and dance. Creatures that mourn and love and play. Creatures that create culture. Creatures that pass on their family traditions and secrets.

All of creation has a song to sing about God’s goodness—do we have ears to hear it? 

Praise the Lord from the earth,

    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

lightning and hail, snow and clouds,

    stormy winds that do his bidding,

you mountains and all hills,

    fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all cattle,

    small creatures and flying birds,

kings of the earth and all nations,

    you princes and all rulers on earth,

young men and women,

    old men and children.

Psalm 148:7-12 NIV

Perhaps if we sit with it, even for a few minutes, the song of God’s glory sung by creation will reach us. 
Thanks to the makers of Secrets of the Whales, we can hear the song of one of God’s most majestic and mysterious creatures.

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