Giant Lives

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Episode 1 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

This episode explores the intimate details of the largest animals that have ever lived on our planet - the great whales. From the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean to the freezing seas of the Arctic, two daring underwater cameramen - Doug Allan, Planet Earth's polar specialist, and Didier Noirot, Cousteau's front-line cameraman - come face-to-face with fighting humpback whales and 200-ton feeding blue whales.

Teaming up with top whale scientists, Giant Lives discovers why southern right whales possess a pair of one-ton testicles, why the arctic bowhead can live to over 200 years old and why size truly matters in the world of whales.

More episodes

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  • Humpback whales in Hawaii

    Humpback whales in Hawaii

    Perhaps the most dramatic behaviour we were to film for the Ocean Giants series was the competitive mating groups of humpback whales. We teamed up with the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation and, with the help of head scientist Dr Dan R. Salden, our underwater cameraman, Didier Noirot, was granted unique access to the mating whales close up. Dodging tail swipes and charging forty ton bulls, how did Didier fare?

    We were granted access to film the whales under the authority of National Marine Fisheries Service Permit No. 5871767-01.

    Image taken by Ellen Husain

    Watch Didier Noirot filming a humpback whale fight
  • Southern Right Whales in Patagonia

    Southern Right Whales in Patagonia

    Having survived the battling humpback giants, Didier went on to film the intimate mating antics of a far larger Ocean Giant - the colossal southern right whale in Patagonia, Argentina.

    He joined The Right Whale Program, the longest continuous study of whales of its kind, and worked alongside its Scientific Director, Dr Marianno Sironi, who is studying their mating behaviours. And they are extreme. These whales boast giant genitalia - the bulls have a pair of testicles weighing over a ton! Rather than aggressive these whales are super-friendly, a problem in itself when you are eight hundred times smaller and at risk from being crushed.

    Image taken by Corinne Lelong

    Watch Didier capturing intimate moments of the Southern right whale
  • Killer Whales in Monterey Bay, California

    Killer Whales in Monterey Bay, California

    Doug Allan joined top killer whale scientist John Durban in Monterey Bay, California, to try and record the impact of killer whales on migrating grey whale calves. Filming during their research, they were able to tag the killer whales just as they made their kill.

    Filming was authorized by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, permit 782-1719-09.

    Image taken by Mark Brownlow

    Watch killer whales being tagged
  • Blue whale feeding, Mexico

    Blue whale feeding, Mexico

    The largest creature in the ocean feeds almost exclusively on one of the smallest - krill. In one massive gulp a blue whale can filter through its own body weight in water.

    Image taken by Doc White

    See how a blue whale feeds


Executive Producer
Sara Ford
Series Producer
Mark Brownlow
Series Producer
Phil Chapman
Stephen Fry


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