top of page

Become a Friend of 52: The Loneliest Whale in the World

Today is the official launch of the Lonely Whale Kickstarter Campaign.

52: The Search For the Loneliest Whale is a cinematic quest to find the “52 Hertz Whale,” whom scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude, calling out at a frequency that no other whale can understand. The team will explore what this whale’s lonely plight can teach us, not just about our changing relationship to the oceans, but to each other in our hyper-connected world.


The story of “52” began in 1989, when a secret underwater surveillance system, created by the US Navy to track enemy submarines during the Cold War, picked up a mysterious 52 Hz frequency in the Pacific Ocean. Unable to determine its source, the Navy sent a recording to Dr. William Watkins of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for analysis. After months of study, Dr. Watkins concluded that this strange signal belonged to one single whale who was calling out a frequency that no other whale could. Watkins spent the next 12 years tracking the whale, whom he named “52”, until his death in 2004.

In the months following Watkin’s passing, the 52 Hz whale was profiled in The New York Times. Watkins' team summarized that 52 is most likely a hybrid of a blue whale and another species. Watkins had theorized that the whale was either the first of its kind, the last of its kind, or a whale with a malformation in its call, resulting in its inability to find a mate or form a bond with any of his species.

People are drawn to 52’s plight. Whether they symphathize or relate to this illusive creature, we all feel ourselves routing for him. Sociologists theorize that the current fascination with “52” points to a growing sense of loneliness that seems to plague our techno-centric society. As we become more reliant on technology are we isolating ourselves from real interpersonal relationships? Is our fascination with "52" actually a reflection of what we are missing in our own lives?

Those behind the Lonely Whale plan to pick up where Dr. Watkins left off, embarking on a quest to re-discover this mysterious creature with the help of celebrated marine scientists and the public at large. They will explore how the fascinating phenomenon of underwater sound informs the story, from 52’s discovery to the complexities of Whale songs, to the growing scourge of ocean noise that is now disrupting the lives of Whales everywhere. Noise pollution is one of the fastest growing threats to marine mammals, particularly whales. These noises include sonar blasts from military exercises, seismic airguns from fuel exploration, and commercial fleets crossing the globe every single day.

The kickstarter campaign has a goal of $300,000, which will go towards the research and expedition in the search of the 52 Hz Whale. That includes the research vessel which will take scientists and film crew out to sea for 20 days, in search of the loneliest whale in the world in an effort to connect. The journey will help us further understand how ocean noise pollution is affecting these majestic creatures and our oceans.

The expedition is planned to launch Summer/Fall (2015).

The Lonely Whale Team includes:

Director/Producer: Joshua Zeman (Gigantic Pictures)

Executive Producer: Adrian Grenier (Reckless Productions)

Producer: Lucy Cooper (Alldayeverday)


Adrian Grenier and Joshua Zeman talk “52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale” at Sundance last month.

You can learn more about Lonely Whale and become a friend by visiting

or by following @lonelywhale on Twitter.

Follow Us
  • facebook sq.jpg
  • facebook sq twit.jpg
  • facebook sq g.jpg
bottom of page