Grenier believes the extraordinary story of 52 can increase empathy for all animals, as well as the planet and its oceans. "The lonely whale has that innate ability, and we think the community will come together and not only watch the film, but also have great revelations about themselves and their roles on the planet," he said.
All over the world, different people have related to the saga of 52 in different ways.
"For some it's the obvious loneliness," Zeman said. "For others it becomes a message of inspiration: He continues calling out year after year despite never theoretically receiving a response. For others, it's the science, an amazing story about a hybrid whale that's out there. For others, it raises the question of if he even wants to be found."
Grenier conceded that 52 may not want to be found, but said the search for the lonely whale will benefit all marine animals. "The reality is we humans are affecting his life anyway," he said. "We've connected with him and not in a compassionate, sensitive way. And that's because of manmade noise pollution."
According to Humane Society International, "The growing amount of human-caused noise in the ocean may be a growing problem for sound-sensitive creatures. Marine mammals and other marine species can suffer not only hearing damage when exposed to loud noises, but also other physical and psychological harm." Noise sources include sonar blasts from military exercises, seismic air guns to detect oil and gas deposits beneath the sea floor and commercial shipping.
Money raised through the crowd-sourcing effort will help pay for the research vessel, fuel, permits, food and equipment for the study, as well as the expedition crew, scientists and the filmmaking team.
Zeman will join the expedition, but Grenier said he is not sure there is room for him on board. "I do dread the idea," he said. "I think it would be a harrowing and uncomfortable adventure. But I don't think I could say no to the opportunity."
So what happens if the crew doesn't meet its goal of locating 52? "The scientific mission will still be there, which is the ultimate point - to acoustically monitor hybrid whales and do as much research on that as possible," Zeman said. "So the ultimate goal will still happen."