This programme is not currently available on BBC iPlayer

The Whale

Dramatic retelling of the fateful last voyage of the Nantucket whaleship Essex. When the Essex is attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in November 1820, her crew take to three fragile whalers. Alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the men must decide whether to head for the nearest islands - a thousand miles downwind to the west - or set out on an epic journey of almost three thousand miles to reach the South American mainland. Fear of cannibals forces them to choose South America.

Almost three months later, the first whaler is rescued by another whaleship. Only three men are still alive. A week later the captain's whaler is also rescued, with just two men aboard. The third whaler is never found.

This is a story of human endurance and what men in extremis will do to survive.

Release date:

1 hour, 30 minutes

Last on

Sun 22 Dec 2013 21:00

More about whales

More about whales
The mighty sperm whale is a multiple record-breaker. It is the largest of the toothed whales with some males reaching 20 metres in length. Find out more about these fascinating creatures.


Role Contributor
Tom NickersonMartin Sheen
Young Tom NickersonCharles Furness
Owen ChaseJonas Armstrong
Captain George PollardAdam Rayner
Benjamin LawrenceJolyon Coy
Owen CoffinJassa Ahluwalia
Richard PetersonDavid Gyasi
William BondJohn Boyega
Obed HendricksFerdinand Kingsley
Matthew JoyPaul Kaye
Executive ProducerEamon Hardy
Executive ProducerRuth Caleb
ProducerMike Dormer
DirectorAlrick Riley
WriterTerry Cafolla

Captured on canvas

Captured on canvas

The melancholy story of Moby Dick and whale hunting in paintings.