I never thought I would class myself as a whale enthusiast, writes Charlotte Lilley, but even I have to admit I was converted after watching this new series, Whale Adventure with Nigel Marven.
Because of my fear of boats, getting up close and personal with the 30-tonne creature is something I would never have even dreamt of, but after watching last night’s programme, I’m tempted to book my next trip to the Arctic.
In the first of a four-part Channel Five series, Marven followed grey whales, in particular mothers and their calves known as ‘friendlies’, as they embarked on a 5,000-mile journey to the feeding grounds of Alaska, the longest mammal migration on earth.
Before the journey, he observed the calves as they spent the first months of their life suckling, learning swimming skills and getting ready for their long journey ahead doing stamina exercises in the ‘whale gym.’
The programme gave an incredible insight into how the creatures live and showed that just like humans, they will do anything for their children.
The route was fraught with danger as the grey whales travelled from Baja California in Mexico to Alaska, avoiding killer whales along the way all the while knowing they wouldn’t get a square meal until they reached their final destination.
A touching moment, I found, was when Marven interacted with a mother and her calf in a birthing lagoon in Mexico, who allowed the wildlife expert a once in a lifetime experience to touch them and even put his hand in their mouths which they seemed to enjoy.
As they journeyed north, he took a road trip through the desert of Mexico running parallel to the ocean, and despite his love of the giants, it was amusing to see him drive for five hours just to see a mole lizard, a tiny worm-like creature hidden under a rock in the outback.
Marven also bravely handled a diamond rattlesnake and pounced on an iguana who was intent on getting away, as well as examining unusual cacti before continuing on his trip.
But as the mothers and their calves swam along the coast of California, I found it quite upsetting to learn the state is a place where whales and people collide as more than 1,000 whales and dolphins die every day from being entangled in nets and hit by boats.
I love interesting facts and this programme had plenty. For instance a new born calf weighs half a tonne and is five metres long. The skin of a whale feels like a hard boiled egg to the touch and the noise it makes sounds like bongo drums. Least surprising of all was that it has fishy breath.
By the end of the show, I’d been reeled in. Will the creatures survive the journey? How will they bypass the killer whales who threaten to halt their epic trip? And what other animals will Nigel Marven encounter along the way? As you can tell, I am already looking forward to the next instalment . . . I guess you could say I had a whale of a time.