The Humpback Whales of Cape Verde

For 12 years marine biologist Dr Simon Berrow has led expeditions from Ireland to Cape Verde. His quest? To prove humpback whales seen feeding off Ireland in summer and autumn are the same ones found breeding in Cape Verde in spring.
In 2014 his quest takes a twist. Humpback whales are showing up in Cape Verde at the ‘wrong time’ in September.
The theory? They are visitors from the southern hemisphere. Find the evidence and he will be first to document a common ground for northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere humpback whales in the Eastern Atlantic.
But first he must find them.

  • Tony Whelan
    Rough Rider
  • Niall Campion
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Ocean, Wildlife
  • Runtime:
    53 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 5, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    30,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Cape Verde, Ireland, Malta
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Tony Whelan

I fell into the film and the TV industry in 1994 having worked in a variety of sectors including computing in England, construction in Australia, print journalism in Ireland, and crewing aboard private yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

My break into television came through sports broadcasting where after a number of years learning I oversaw complex productions of FIFA World Cups, UEFA European Championships and Rugby World Cups. I was lucky to be trained as a single camera director at the BBC during this time.

This led to roles as a director of programmes and operations, programmes editor and commissioning editor and the chance to work with great people on a slate of documentaries and films. During this period I co-created the comedy series 'Special1TV' (BBC) and 'Après Match' (RTE).

Most recently I was a producer on ‘Rough Rider – The Paul Kimmage Story’ and have just filmed and directed 'The Humpback Whales of Cape Verde'. Like many of the stories I am interested in, both have discovery at heart.

A qualified Ocean Yachtmaster, I am alas without a yacht.

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Director Statement

This film was one of those ‘if I don’t do it, no one else will’ moments.

I got a call in July from Clare based marine biologist Simon Berrow to see if I wanted to come film with him on an Irish Whale and Dolphin Group expedition to Cape Verde that August. There was no time to go through the standard documentary funding processes and no one ready to fund it off the cuff.
So I got my hands on some filming gear (the just released and then untested Panasonic GH4) and off I went. The result is this documentary.

Look, it’s not a film that is going to change the world. But it's a grand story and I like to think it will somehow make a difference if it gets one young girl or boy to take an interest in our seas.

I am indebted to everyone involved in getting it to completion. All gave of their time and skills because they liked the idea of an Irish expedition breaking new ground. The film editor Niall Campion was a trooper. So too musicians Nico Brown, Martin Brunsden and Hugh Rodgers. And Locky Butler (U2, Christy Moore, Love/Hate) who set aside time for sound design and post once we got it to that stage. Ciara Walsh at EMC was kindness personified.
Liam O’Maonlai (Hothouse Flowers) took the plunge to do his first narration.
And those scientists are just amazing, doing what they do because they can. Simply wonderful people to be around.

I hope you enjoy their tale.