A sei whale was stranded in Fife, Scotland last year. What it was doing there, hundreds of miles off course, was a mystery. But such strandings are becoming more and more common, they say What killed the whale? (channel 4) aAround 100 cases are reported in the UK each year, a number that has doubled in the past decade, and the pattern is repeating itself around the world.
To find out what exactly killed this animal, presenter Dr. Ella Al-Shamahi participates in a whale autopsy. This is actually the second whale autopsy that Channel 4 has aired, following Inside Nature’s Giants in 2009. I think they are a review winner.
In scenes you shouldn’t watch while eating on TV, the animal was sliced and diced before our eyes, its entrails (more than 70 meters long) stretched across the beach. “The smell is something,” Al-Shamahi said with what I suspect is an understatement. The presenter is listed in National Geographic’s Explorer Directory as a stand-up comic, in addition to his work as a paleoanthropologist and archaeologist. Fortunately, she stayed away from jokes here.
With two marine experts, Dr. Andrew Brownlow and Rob Deaville, Al-Shamahi spoke to us about the threats to whales from human industry. They can get caught in fishing gear or be hit by ships. They absorb pollutants. And they can be pushed out of their normal habitat by noise pollution, such as military sonar or shipping traffic.
All of this was sobering stuff, well explained by the experts. But the producers didn’t dare to leave it at that. They employed the full range of tricks: a near-permanent soundtrack of dramatic music, date lines ticking across the screen, and cliffhanger moments that lead into every commercial break (there were a lot of commercial breaks). I can only assume that the program makers want a young, environmentally conscious audience to see this and fear their attention will wander if the information isn’t dressed up like The Bourne Identity.
In the end, they weren’t sure what exactly killed that whale, even though it was malnourished and had a compromised immune system. Al-Shamahi had a simple answer to the cause of death: “It’s me and it’s you.”
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/killed-whale-review-sobering-message-drowned-action-film-editing/ a sobering message drowned by the action-film editing