VIENNA, 17 April 2023 - Many cinemagoers came along to the arthouse cinema, Topkino, to embark on a quest to discover the so-called ‘52 Hertz Whale’. It has earned its name because it emits a unique frequency of 52 Hertz that no other whale on earth seems to be able to hear. The film follows a group of scientists on their journey to find this mysterious creature that is believed to have lived its life in complete solitude.
During the panel discussion afterwards, Jillian Petersen, Marine Biology and Microbiology Expert at the University of Vienna, praised the film for its compelling depiction of science in action. Pedro Frade, the Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Viennese Natural History Museum, could relate to the film as his own work had frustrations and surprises that come with collecting unknown specimens: "It's a reflection of the everyday challenges we face as marine biologists." Alex Hein, Marine Expert at WWF Austria, commended the film for its representation of the vast and mysterious ocean: "It stands for all the things we have yet to discover
Megan Slinkard, Chief of Software Applications at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) explained that her organization runs a global monitoring system, including eleven stations that monitor all hydroacoustic oceanic activities. By analyzing the data collected, they are able to decipher whether a sound came “from a ship, a whale, or an explosion." This also helps in the research of whale populations and their migration patterns.
Hein highlighted the threats whale populations are facing, including bycatch, climate change, plastic pollution, and ghost gears. Frade drew attention to the dire situation of whales in the 1960s when they were almost completely extinct. However, thanks to the efforts of biologists who discovered the sounds of whales in the 1960s, people began to take action against this threat. Roger Payne, a biologist featured in Zeman's documentary, emphasized the power of collective action: "When people care, they can change the world."
The screening event was jointly organized by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to mark International Mother Earth Day. In his opening remarks, CTBTO Executive Secretary Robert Floyd emphasized that this treaty was established to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our planet.