Aug 7, 2015

The Grandest of Lives

Eye to Eye with Whales
by Douglas H. Chadwick

Writer and wildlife biologist Chadwick (of A Beast the Color of Winter) became interested in whales and started accompanying other scientists on study trips across the oceans to lend a hand and see whales up close. In this book, he shares information on five whale species, the well-known orcas, humpbacks and giant blue whales, the more common and less-studied minke, and the deep-diving northern bottlenose whale. Each chapter tells about the studies being conducted, difficulties due to weather and equipment failure, innovations in the field, the conflicts of traditional whaling interests and fisheries with conservation efforts, and brief encounters with whales after long hard hours spent searching for them. It was the whale behavior stuff I found most interesting, whether it be their feeding methods and mysterious communication calls or movements among themselves and how some approached boats (one female seemed to think the boat could babysit her calf). Not to be all one-sided, Chadwick also observed methods used on a Norwegian whaling vessel (aimed at killing whales - their rightful heritage, it is claimed- in the fastest, least traumatic way possible) and traveled to Japan to find out about the whaling activities there. There are lots of numbers- population fluctuations and such- and other types of data gone into in detail, which detracts from enjoyment for this casual reader. The author communicated well how difficult it is to learn anything about the personal lives and habits of the whales, when we only glimpse them at the surface, and 95% of their time is spent below it. It was a worthwhile read, covering many aspects of whale biology and research.

Rating: 3/5        256 pages, 2006


bermudaonion said...

I think I would enjoy the whale behavior parts too.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Did you have a favorite whale, out of the ones he profiled? I am defensively fond of orcas, because people trash-talk them sometimes and it's unfair, but that's also partly because I don't know very much at ALL about other whale species.

Jeane said...

Not really. The orcas were most interesting to read about- because we know more about their behavior- the others I wanted to know more about, but they're harder to observe!