Remember Leonardo DiCaprio's pledge earlier this month to help fund and develop more nature documentaries? He just delivered big time for "The Lonely Whale" project.
With only one day to go, and tens of thousands behind on their $300,000 funding goal, actor Adrian Grenier and director Josh Zeman were likely holding their breaths for a last minute surge in support. The pair, who announced the project a little over a year ago, were on their second attempt at funding after a previous financial backer went belly up. Enter DiCaprio, who through his eponymous foundation donated $50,000 to the Kickstarter — pushing the team over the hump and setting off a wave of additional donations.
With 14 hours to go, The Lonely Whale Kickstarter now has $340,000 to work with.
“Thank you to the 3,300 backers and The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for making this science based creative project come to life. These donations validate our ongoing efforts and to get their vote of confidence is a huge moral boost for myself and team Lonely Whale,” said Grenier. “The Foundation has been a leader in environmental conservation and I have been inspired by their work. I see how effective they are in many of their initiatives and take my cues from them. This is just the beginning and I can’t wait to share more news with the community.”
Funding in hand, Grenier and Zeman will now begin planning for a seven-week expedition this fall to the Pacific to search for the "loneliest whale," so-called because of its unique 52-hertz call frequency. Since all other known whales communicate in the 15-20 hertz range, it's thought that this whale is either a hybrid species or has a birth defect. Since the whale's discovery in 1989, marine biologists tracking it have ever only heard one call at any time.
"Imagine roaming the world's largest ocean year after year alone, calling out with the regularity of a metronome, and hearing no response," Andrew Revkin wrote in 2004 for The New York Times. "Such, apparently, is the situation faced by a solitary whale, species unknown, that has been tracked since 1992 in the North Pacific by a classified array of hydrophones used by the Navy to monitor enemy submarines."
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute tracked the "Lonely Whale" over a 12-year span. (Photo: WHOI)
In an interview with Deadline, Zeman says that should they discover the 52-hertz whale, they have no plans to try and communicate with it over that frequency.
“I don’t think its our place to play frequencies in an effort to communicate with 52 that way," he said. "We don’t want to manipulate his world in any way, or give false hope.”
In addition to visually documenting 52 for the first time and answering the question of "is he/she really alone?," Zeman and the expedition team will also attempt to apply non-invasive tags for future tracking.
“Lastly we would use this opportunity to tag another low-frequency whales, fins or blues, since we know so little about them, and finally we would use the opportunity to help collect data so that scientists can better measure the growing scourge of ocean noise pollution,” he added.
Check out a trailer for the funding effort below.
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