Joshua Zeman, director of “The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52”

by | Jul 7, 2021

Joshua Zeman—the director of  “The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52,” a feature-length documentary chronicling the science-oriented pursuit of a whale that experts think has spent his whole life in solitude because, they believe, he’s communicating at a frequency no other whale can understand—addresses the observation that this film represents a departure from his past work, noting he makes mysteries, and “The Loneliest Whale” is surely a mystery.Zeman explains the factors about 52 Hertz Whale (aka 52) that he found so irresistibly compelling that he managed to fend off obstacle after obstacle, such that he says the effort to make this movie stretched over a decade. Prompted by the reference to 52 as an esoteric critter, known by a small but mighty group of oceanographers, whale experts—including those who specialize
in whale communication—and other scientists, as well as a slew of civilians, among them numerous folks on social media, he offers a more detailed description of “52” and muses about why this whale has captured so many people’s imagination. The core of “The Loneliest Whale” involves a seven-day expedition undertaken by a slew of hotshot whale experts and other scientists—with the specific aim to find 52—and Zeman recalls how excited he felt as more and more first-tier whale people signed on, and offers his observations about the smooth, respectful way this dream team functioned. He touches on what happened as the expedition neared its end, but we were careful to sidestep any spoilers. Executive Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” opens in theaters July 9, and can be seen On Demand July 16. (Photos courtesy of Bleecker Street)   (,,



ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Lloyd Schiller, a Jupiter Farms resident who recounted a story about spotting the turtle, Maureen (nee Morris) who lives in his backyard pond, with a fish hook in her mouth. This was in 2006, over Thanksgiving weekend—Black Friday, specifically—and he lamented having to head to WalMart, to shop for a fishing net with a long net, in hopes of capturing Maureen. Eventually having done so, Schiller took the turtle to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, where they removed the hook, otherwise treated Maureen, and released her back to Schiller. Fifteen years later, he remains deeply appreciative. And, Schiller explained, that gratitude went from being reflected in a section in his will, to—in light of the news that Busch Wildlife Sanctuary lost its lease and will relocate to a new site in Jupiter Farms, mindful of a ticking clock driving the move—giving the gift now, which he announced a few weeks ago: It’s a walloping sum, and if you’re curious to know just how walloping, we invite you to listen to this interview!  (https://www.buschwildlife.org,

COMEDY CORNER:  Jim Gaffigan’s “Whales” (portion) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Tom Waits’ “Get Behind The Mule”


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