Plot & Details
Actor Willem Dafoe (The Last Temptation of Christ) narrates this feature-length documentary examination of America's 400+-year infatuation with the science and industry of whaling, which originally aired as an episode of PBS's American Experience series. As written and directed by Ric Burns, the film posits the idea that whaling is as traditionally integrated into "Classic Americana" as virtually anything else. The program approaches its subject chronologically, beginning with a look at whaling's role in the early 17th century, and tracing the pursuit through mid-19th Century, Civil War-era America, when close to 80% of the whaling ships in the world originated in American ports. The film also touches on issues economic and environmental. Special features include a panoply of deleted scenes that take a closer look at whales, the whaling industry and the history of Nantucket Island, and a wealth of bonus reenactment footage that features sea shanties sung aboard a whaling ship christened The Charles W. Morgan.