Jean-Michele Cousteau: Ocean Adventures- Call of the Killer Whale

Wed, 04/22/2009 - 9:00pm
Pictured: An orca nicknamed "Kelsey" magnificently breaches out of the water; Johnstone Strait, British Columbia.
Photo Credit: © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society/KQED
Traveling to extreme locations around the globe to reveal the mysteries of the ocean and its connection to our human world, Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team of explorers return with two new expeditions in the PBS environmental series Jean-Michele Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Combining science and discovery with expert storytelling and astonishing high-definition footage, Call of the Killer Whale (orcas) airs on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011).

Peabody and Emmy Award-winner Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau, travels to the furthest reaches of the globe to bring viewers the latest information about two of the most appealing marine mammals on earth, the beluga and the orca. He and his acclaimed diving team, which includes his son, Fabien, his daughter, Celine, and collaborator Holly Lohuis, explore a thrilling scene of natural beauty, learn about efforts to protect these whales from the threats posed by human activities and climate change, and come face to face with the friendly and ferocious inhabitants of the deep.

In each program, Cousteau explores the connection between the world under the sea and the inter-dependency of the species with humans. Cousteau demonstrates how human behavior on land has brought about changes in both the beluga and orca populations’ ability to survive. But these great sea creatures have much to teach humans as well, and the Cousteau team points to several hopeful signs in the movement to protect these species.

Chris Noth narrates Call of the Killer Whale, the most complex marine species on the planet. Our counterparts in the sea are the orca, the rulers of the ocean. They are the most widely distributed marine mammal in the world. Their realm extends from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Orcas, also called killer whales, number fewer than 100,000 worldwide, and learning more about them is a global endeavor for Cousteau and his team of explorers, who travel to both the northern and southern hemispheres as they seek out killer whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The team discovers that people and orcas share surprising similarities — even similar needs — and they relate their findings to the captivity and release of Keiko, of Free Willy fame, who captured the world’s imagination and whose survival depended on pioneering efforts to re-introduce Keiko into the wild. Cousteau explains how time was spent un-training the trainers who, in turn, untrained Keiko for a life outside of captivity. Cousteau stated, “It’s easy to capture a wild creature and put it in jail. It’s nearly impossible to return [it] to the wild.”

The team also learns how some of the threats to killer whales now intersect with human lives. Intriguing detours in the expedition arise, leading to critical examinations of our environment, of the food on our dinner tables, even of our own health.

“What we’re trying to do is to make the connection between humans and nature, comparing humans and orcas,” stated Cousteau. “They are the dominant species in the ocean. We are the dominant species on land and we all depend on the same thing.”