Among Whales

Roger Payne, Author, Robin Brown, With
Roger Payne, Author, Robin Brown, With MacMillan Publishing Company $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-02-595245-4
Paperback - 431 pages - 978-0-385-31659-0
Hardcover - 431 pages - 978-0-684-80210-7
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Payne, a scientist who has spent most of his career studying whales, is best known for his recordings of the songs of humpback whales. The present work is partly a recounting of his life, partly an exposition of the current state of whale biology and partly an environmental treatise. Some of Payne's speculations about whale behavior--why they sing, how intelligent they might be, how peaceful they are--are tentative, but as he says of informal conversations with fellow scientists, ``it's often fascinating, often riveting, to hear someone's hunches about a subject they have spent much of their lifetimes pondering.'' Payne ranges widely, depicting the excitement of a scientific breakthrough, discussing the ethics of using captive cetaceans for profit, summarizing the history and current status of the whaling industry. His firsthand account of the political machinations controlling the decisions of the International Whaling Commission is enlightening and depressing. Although Payne's prose is uneven, and closer editing would have made for smoother transitions, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and informative work. Photos not seen by PW. Natural History Book Club alternate. (May)
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