American Experience: Into the Deep: America, Whaling, and the World – DVD Review

One of the most controversial industries of the past several decades has been the whaling industry. The act of hunting, slaughtering, and selling whale products has led to legislation all over the world to ban the practice, while other countries thumb their nose at the idea of being told to stop the practice of whaling. In this educational documentary, Into the Deep: America, Whaling, and the World, we get to see just how vital this industry was during the beginnings of the United States.

In 2010 many believe that the hunting of whales is an evil act that is immoral, destructive, and akin to terrorism. Just ask the guys from Whale Wars. But what many don’t know is that back in the early days of America, whaling was a thriving industry that helped the States to prosper and flourish. Whale oil was the petroleum of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and whales were hunted and utilized in total for a variety of purposes.

What I found fascinating about this documentary is the realization that whaling was the life-blood of this country for many years. It enabled colonists to explore other areas of the world, aided the economy, and created trade with other nations. Whaling was more than just a sport or used for a singular product on the creature; it was a necessity around the world.

Today we think of whales as sacred creatures much like India believes in the cow as being sacred. The thought of someone killing a whale leads to revulsion, but that is because there is less or no need for it today. Back then it was just part of industry and commerce for the world and it started to thrive on a tiny island known as Nantucket.

The discovery of oil led to the downfall and eventual end to the whaling industry in America. Oil enabled the U.S. and other countries to create fuel and other products with far less risk than months on whaling vessel (the story of the Essex gives a great example of the dangers incurred on these ships).

We also get a look at Herman Melville, whom we mainly know for his classic novel Moby Dick. What happened to him as a result of his novel being published is definitely something worth noting, and a fascinating tale in itself.

With the help of experts, re-enactments, graphics, photos, and stock footage (film from an actual whaling expedition in the early 20th century), Into the Deep takes us on a journey that is eye-opening and worthwhile.

Special features include:

– Deleted Scenes that take a closer look at whales, the history of Nantucket, and that whaling industry.

– Bonus reenactment footage, featuring whaling sea shanties being sung aboard the Charles W. Morgan.

I highly recommend American Experience: Into the Deep: America, Whaling, and the World from PBS. It’s a wonderful study of the history of this controversial environmental topic.

If you’re interested in this documentary, I also highly recommend the 2009 Oscar-Winning Documentary The Cove. The film explores the controversial world of dolphin slaughter in Japan happening today. It’s a great follow-up to Into the Deep as a means to see how whaling policy has changed and is currently implemented throughout the world.

Should whaling be legalized once again? Should it be banned worldwide and the violators jailed or worse (perhaps people could hunt the hunters)? Leave a comment and let us know!

American Experience: Into the Deep: America, Whaling, and the World is available NOW on DVD.

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