Fellowship of the Whales

In Hawaii, where new land is born as volcanic rock, another birth takes place. A baby humpback enters the world and joins the 3,000 or more whales that congregate in the warm waters off Hawaii each winter to mate and give birth. This is the story of her first year of life. Over twelve months she will learn many skills from her mother, and eventually they will make the several-thousand-mile journey together to Alaska’s southeast coast.

Humpbacks travel between Hawaii and Alaska every year, guided by their internal compass. The krill-rich waters of Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago are the whales’ summer feeding grounds, an environment very different from the calving grounds they have left behind in Hawaii. Here, more than the water temperature changes, the behavior of the whales changes, as well. While fiercely competitive in the breeding season in Hawaii, fighting for mates and protecting young, the opposite is true in Alaska. Whales cooperate, working in teams to gather food in the most efficient way possible. When the summer ends and the food is gone, mother and baby will head back to Hawaii again.

The young humpback calf has only a year to learn the subtleties of whale society before she is left by her mother to continue her education on her own, learning from observation and experience. It’s an incredible journey between two strikingly different environments that reveals the true complexity of the fellowship of the whales.

NATURE’s Fellowship of the Whales premieres Sunday, November 15 at 8pm (check local listings).

Photo © 2008 (Peggy Stap / Hawaii Whale Research Foundation) under NMFS Research Permit No. 587-1767-01

  • Brian Swierczynski

    Ah dude! Where you guys there when that mother Humpback and her baby swam up the Sacramento River?

  • Ester Quintana

    Is there a DVD about this program that can be purchased online? Thank you!!

  • NATURE Online

    Ester, to find out how to purchase DVDs of this and other NATURE programs, click the “shop” link at the top of the page.

  • Laurel Mancini

    What an elegant program. Nice weaving of Alaskan and Hawaiian geography and Humpback biology.

  • wynette

    We have observed this behavior from Maui and this video enriched our world and knowledge . Thank you for making us know l we must go back to Maui this year.

  • John Hastings

    Acutally did a week long trip with Cynthia D’Vincent the week before they did the first summer of filming scouting sites. She has great pictures available for sale if you hit the Intersea website.

  • Rose

    There are no DVDs listed for these titles at this time on PBS shop online!! Please tell me how to get copies. Thanks

  • Miriam

    Beautiful. Precious. Thank you.

  • Xcorps

    Are you kidding me! Did I just watch a Disney animation!? Incredible shots telling a age old story! Top end documentary production with full compliments to the producers!
    The Humpbacks must have been sitting ducks for whalers there in Hawaii back in the day. Hope I’m around when Man finally cracks the code and understands those whale songs! They are probably still singing tales about those bad ole days!

  • Debbie

    This was amazing! I can’t wait for the opportunity to buy a DVD. Really beautiful footage!

  • Dianne Bass

    On our wall we have a beautiful work of art by Wyland called “First Breath” which has now taken on a more dramatic meaning since watching the humpback whale episode. Thank you.

  • BeaAnne

    We are sitting in Maui Hawaii facing Lanai and Molokai. We are seeing the beautiful humpback whales out there in the water welcoming us to the Islands. My question is which way do they enter this area from Alaska. Are they coming from the Molokai side or entering into this area between Molokai and Lanai.We have long been a lover of these beautiful beings. MAHALO. BeaAnne from California

  • Dennis Rogers

    It was a tremendous pleasure to work with the producers of this documentary for three years in Alaska on this project. I can only imagine the amount of footage that ended up on the ‘cutting room floor’ as they captured tons of incredible humpback behavior in here in Alaska as well as Hawaii. The feature turned out fantastic and I hope that copies on DVD are made available for purchase soon!

  • Mike


  • Paul Eric Madore

    Oh my! I just finished watching this masterpiece. I found myself in tears numerous times, spellbound by the spectacle of these beautiful giants. You are true masters at work weaving this incredible tale and presenting the whales in the most perfect way. Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Paul :-)

  • bj

    What are we going to do now that the IWC has said it’s perfectly fine to murder, chop up in pieces and shove dead whale flesh into open maws?

    Twenty seven humpbacks will be sacrificed… reason… just because the indigenous want to eat them.

  • angelo

    its stunning to see such creatures. we must preserve every life. they serve a deeper purpose.

  • Andee

    “From fire to ice, and back again.” Beautiful!

  • Pat

    This program brought back memories of a very memorable vacation. I was fortunete evough to vacation on Maui in January. We took several whale watching excursions and were able to see these magnicficent creatures in the wild. It is a memory that I will cherish forever. Thank you.

  • Deb

    Hi, astonishing program!!! When will it be showing on local station in South Bend, Indiana (Comcast – South Bend)? I can’t find it on their partial schedule listing. I’d love for Mom to see it!

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  • Back from Kauai

    Just returned from the north shores of Kauai and enjoyed watch humpback whales, in person.
    Would love to purchase “Fellowship with the whale” on DVD.
    How can I get one ?
    Mahalo Gabby

  • Trula Bedard

    I watched and rewatched “In the Valley of the Wolves” and the filming was incredible. The scene of the eagle swooping down on the coyote and stealing its food just left my mouth agape. Breathtaking. As was the scene of the red fox diving into the snow to retrieve the bole. What amazing footage! My wife and I visited Yellowstone for our first time this past summer (drove from Chambersburg PA) and were so impressed with the park. What Mr. Landis depicted, however, is a part of Yellowstone we tourists never see. Thank you for a wonderful production. I am curious though his technique to get such fantastic video. One can even hear wings flapping, bison snorting, and aspens quaking. How in the world can you get that close without arousing the animals?

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