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The Whales of the Great Salt Lake

Jacob Justice
The Good Line

In 1888, the daily Salt Lake Herald-Republican reprinted a story from a Canadian paper. The headline? That a family of whales was flourishing in the Great Salt Lake.

The article went on to describe the efforts of one James Wickham — an English scientist — to create a whale oil industry in Utah by capturing two adult specimens near Australia and releasing them into the Great Salt Lake. True? No, but the idea caught on and became local folklore. The new short film “Whales of the High Desert” examines the story and asks what it means to believe that whales could ever thrive here, so far from the ocean.

Friday night’s premiere of “Whales of the High Desert” is sold out. Friends of Great Salt Lake and The Good Line are planning another event and we will have more details in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, if you are interested please contact april@thegoodline.


  • Joseph LeBaron, creative director and co-founder of The Good Line. He directed “Whales of the High Desert.” 
  • Lynne McNeill, associate professor of folklore at Utah State University. 
  • Bonnie Baxter, director of the Great Salt Lake Institute and professor of biology at Westminster College.

Airdate: Friday, August 25, 2023 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.