The Grandest of Lives: Eye to Eye with Whales

Douglas H. Chadwick, Author . Sierra Club $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-57805-126-7

Wildlife biologist Chadwick's fascination with whales began when he found himself floating nose to nose with an inquisitive humpback off the coast of Maui. Since that heady experience, he has traveled the seas with whale researchers, becoming ever more enchanted with these great mammals. In this compelling book, he records what he has learned and observed of five whale species, including the humpback, described by Melville as "the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales"; the bottlenose, an exceptionally intelligent whale that can dive to great depths; and the orca, misnamed the "killer" whale, a very social whale that does not attack humans. As he observes the whales' habits and listens to the sounds they use to communicate with each other, Chadwick (The Fate of the Elephant ) struggles to remain objective. But this is difficult. Whales have such a complex assortment of lifestyles, cultures and social relationships, it's hard to avoid anthropomorphizing them, especially since they seem to be as curious about humans as humans are about them. The author's enthusiasm for these extraordinary creatures effectively draws the reader into the whales' underwater environment and makes a powerful case for increased efforts to preserve that environment. Six b&w illus. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/10/2006
Release date: 06/01/2006
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-57805-147-2
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