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Humpback Whales: A Detective Story

Nature documentary. Tom Mustill returns to California to find out whether the humpback whale that nearly killed him three years earlier was deliberately trying to hurt him.

On 12 September 2015, a 30-ton humpback whale breached and landed on Tom Mustill and his friend Charlotte Kinloch as they paddled a sea kayak in Monterey Bay, California. Incredibly, both survived the incident, but the near-death experience haunted documentary maker Tom and left him wondering if the whale was deliberately trying to hurt them. To find the answer, Tom returned to California in 2018 to investigate.

Tom meets those who have survived similar hair-raising encounters and the experts who know the whales best. What he discovers raises far bigger questions, not just about what happened that day but also about our relationship with whales and their future alongside us.

59 minutes

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:04

    Mulatu Astatke

    Yègellé Tezeta

  • 00:05

    Jonsi & Alex, Riceboy Sleeps

    Boy 1904

  • 00:07


    Weight Off

  • 00:16

    Invisible Minds

    Yo Mae Leh

  • 00:17

    Nils Frahm


  • 00:24

    Roots Manuva

    All Things

  • 00:25

    The Cinematic Orchestra

    All Things To All Men (feat. Roots Manuva)

  • 00:27

    The Swingle Singers

    Largo [Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 In F Minor Bwv 1056]

  • 00:35

    Jamie xx


  • 00:49


    Busy Earnin'

  • 00:52

    Anna Meredith


  • 00:56


    Alone in Kyoto

  • 00:57

    George FitzGerald & Lil Silva

    Roll Back


Role Contributor
Director Tom Mustill
Editor Sabrina Burnard
Line Producer Cherry Dorrett
Series Editor Roger Webb
Series Producer Holly Spearing
Production Company Gripping Films Limited


  • Fri 8 Feb 2019 21:00
  • Sat 9 Feb 2019 20:00
  • Sat 9 Mar 2019 02:10
  • Tue 16 Jul 2019 19:00
  • Sat 29 Feb 2020 17:30
  • Sat 29 Feb 2020 18:30