AVDF awarded a grant to Twin Cities PBS to support the completion of a two-hour documentary entitled When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time. The documentary takes viewers millions of years into the past to unravel the ancient stories of crocodiles, birds, whales, and elephants. Top scientists follow clues from the fossil record and use 21st-century technology to make exciting new discoveries. The film features an extraordinary cast of ancient characters, from four-tusked elephants, to a whale ancestor that walked on four legs, to crocodiles that would dwarf any reptile alive today.
When Whales Walked aired simultaneously on PBS and the Smithsonian Channel in June 2019. The collaboration between PBS and Smithsonian reached a television audience of 5.2 million viewers in its premiere week, and it will remain available for streaming on PBS and Smithsonian member platforms for years to come.
The 2019 broadcast was designed to coincide with the launch of the “Deep Time” exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History’s (NMNH) Hall of Fossils. The Museum created activities based on the learning objectives of the documentary, including a new virtual reality game, Deep Time Detectives. Thousands of children and parents participated in events at NMNH and other partner museums across the country, facilitated by Smithsonian scientists, museum educators and trained volunteers.
In addition, the project also created educational resources that are available online. Educators and students can visit PBS LearningMedia to access film excerpts and curricular resources on various topics covered in the documentary.