Humpback Whales: A Detective Story - BBC documentary uncovers true nature of the sea creature after human 'attack'

In September 2015, documentary-maker Tom Mustill and his friend suffered a near-death experience when a 30 ton humpback whale breached the surface and landed on top of their kayak.

Monday, 15th July 2019, 4:29 pm
Updated Monday, 15th July 2019, 5:30 pm
Humpback Whales: A Detective Story will air on BBC Two tonight at 7pm (Photo: BBC)

The pair were lucky enough to survive, but the incident left a lasting impression and sparked a desire to hunt for answers.

A deliberate attack?

An onlooker caught the dramatic collision, which took place around Monterey Bay in California, on video, when Mustill and his friend were paddling their kayak alongside several others and three boats packed with whale watchers.

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Analysing the footage, Mustill sets out to discover if the whale was deliberately trying to hurt them in a fascinating documentary story on BBC Two tonight (16 July).

He returns to California to investigate that possibility, swapping extraordinary stories with others who have survived similar encounters and a host of experts who know the whale's behaviours best.

During his quest for answers, Mustill hears remarkable tales of humpbacks protecting a human diver from a shark and rescuing a calf from attacking killer whales.

The discoveries he makes raises many questions about man's relationship with whales, and makes him ponder whether humpbacks, far from being aggressive, are capable of empathising with other creatures.

But perhaps most interesting of all, Mustill learns that humpbacks each have markings which are as individual as a person's fingerprint, meaning it might be possible for him to identify the whale who 'attacked' him.

When is it on TV?

Humpback Whales: A Detective Story will air on BBC Two tonight at 7pm.