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Wild Blue: A Natural History of the World's Largest Animal Hardcover – 14 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (14 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383879
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 821,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Erich Hoyt on 5 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of my first excursions when I moved to Edinburgh in 1989 was to look in the University of Edinburgh Anatomy Department Library for Sir Robert Sibbald's manuscript and drawings of the first blue whale to be named and described by science in 1692. I was thrilled that "Sibbald's rorqual", as it was first called, had been found on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, a short walk from our new home, and in the shadow of the blue whale jaw bones atop North Berwick Law.

Finding a good book on blue whales, however, has proved much more difficult, and indeed impossible up till now. The task was taken up by journalist Dan Bortolotti who was determined to tell the big story of the blue whale and to take the time and care to do it well. In Wild Blue, Bortolotti tells the story of Sibbald's 78-foot-long find and how it subsequently became one of the first four whale species to be entered by Linnaeus into his Systema Naturae.

Wild Blue proves to be a sweeping tour of all that is, was and hopefully will be, in centuries to come, the blue whale. No aspect is left uncovered, including whaling, management, genetics, acoustics. All are covered in a concise, engaging way. Yet most engaging are the field studies, e.g., splashing around with Richard Sears - the first person to crack the blue whale photo-ID code and the person who has spent more waking hours with living blue whales than anyone.

The key challenge to writing a good whale book is how to deal with the wealth of unpublished material. Whale science is still so young; scientific papers and reports are archival and narrowly selective about what they cover. Thus much of what is known is carried around in the heads of frontline researchers such as Sears, John Calambokidis and others.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Malcolm G. Bracken on 9 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the book I would have written had my life gone according to the plan I laid down when I was 12. Cetaceans have always fascinated me! This book manages to walk the fine line between accessibility and accuracy. Many popular science books end up patronising their readers by oversimplifying - or worse drawing conclusions where debate remains. In this case Bortolotti presents the evidence, which is often sketchy. He avoids anthropomorphising his subject, without losing the sense of awe. He starts off with a history of Whaling without being judgemental, and continues in this vein, allowing readers to draw their own conclusion from the sensitively presented evidence.

All in all an informative, and extremely well-written book, which I enjoyed reading enormously.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Pugh on 11 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I actually bought this book to present as a raffle prize for a marine charity but when I delved into it I couldn't put it down. I read it once then again to take it all in. It has been very well researched and is very readable and not scientifically 'stuffy'. I tend to get bogged down with facts and figures but this book is nicely balanced. The author has spent time out in the field (or on the water) with some of the World's top experts on the blue whale such as the likes of John Calombokodis and Richard Sears so he has certainly done his ground work and been sea-sick in the process. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in cetaceans and in particular the subject of the book the mighty blue whale.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A superb contribution to natural history 28 Jan. 2009
By Matthew A. Bille - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Wild Blue is simply a great book in every way. It introduces us to a mammal we know surprisingly little about, despite said mammal's status as the largest creature ever to live on Earth. The author is outstanding at explaining cetacean biology, scientific principles, technology, and so on without ever losing his sense of wonder. He also introduces us to the key figures in blue whale research and lets us know what motivates them.
Wild Blue is scientifically exacting yet always accessible to the nonspecialist reader like myself. That's a very difficult tightrope for any author to walk, and Bortolotti never loses his balance. This will stand for a long time as the definitive work on its subject.

Matt Bille
author, Shadows of Existence: Discoveries and Speculations in Zoology (Hancock, 2006)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wild Blue: A Natural History of the Whale Industry and the Animal 22 Oct. 2010
By Jubal Nova - Published on
Verified Purchase
Wild Blue: A Natural History of the Whale Industry and the Animal

Very informative. The first 160 pages or so are a whole lot about the Whale Industry History,
which is miserable, and somewhat cumbersome in place. Still very relevant though as so much of our
early information about Cetaceans was from the Whaling Industry.
The book does go on detail so much of what we now know about these intelligent creatures, largely
through the eyes of several important scientists and researchers who have contributed so much to our understanding.
Not a detailed Biology text of the animal by any means; but an eye-opener on how little we know about a species we have driven to the brink of extinction. Wild Blue was a good and informative read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Engrossing, Yet All-Encompassing 30 Jun. 2012
By LK - Published on
I am so impressed with Mr. Bortolotti's research, both in the history of this magnificent beast, and the science behind knowing it. He sought out what appears to be everyone of any significance in blue whale research and spends time learning about their specialties, methods, and results. He also shows how these compliment the work of others. This takes time and patience, and is appreciated. I also appreciate his balanced perspective, never coming across as an alarmist, but not uncorking the champagne to celebrate population increases either (due, in part, to political reasons, like Japan itching at the bit to begin a full-fledged whaling program again). The chapters on the Whaling Industry are truly heartbreaking-- I made myself read through that tragic part of the great blue's history in one sitting, so that when I returned to the book, I would start a new day on a better note. And there are many wonderful studies that cheer one's soul after that. The understanding of these mysterious creatures is painstakingly slow business, but so worth it. Thank you, Mr. Bortolotti, for taking the time to write a thorough, accurate book, and writing in such a way that not only makes hard science comprehensible, but thoroughly engrossing as well.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Well Balanced, Just Right 26 Oct. 2011
By A. D. hodgson - Published on
I thought this book struck a very good balance of being a scientific and intelligent read and simply being appealing and enjoyable. There is just about the perfect amount of information on the subject without delving too deep into particulars only experts would find exciting. I was never bored, but also found myself quite able to put the book down. The chapters flow logically, introduce you to diverse researchers, trace the history of whaling, and are all about 20 pages. Each one makes for a good quick sitting. The author only occasionally makes editorials, one of which I will note: his annoyance towards the UN for not stopping the USSR from over-harvesting whales in general, including blues during the 60s and 70s- I mean, the whole world was just trying not to fall into a nuclear holocaust. And the Soviets were an aggressive, militant bully superpower. What was the UN supposed to do exactly? Still, it isn't exactly a diatribe. Well, I recommend it. A great place to start, and for most people, stop, in learning about blue whales, and whaling. Might make you sad or angry, but I also liked that the overall tone of the book is one of hope that these animals will survive and recover.
A truly great book on such a fascinating creature 12 Sept. 2014
By KDeRoo - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book. I would've finished it a lot quicker had I not been taking so many notes on it (nearly thirty pages). Bortolotti covers a range of topics on the species, including its incredible size, anatomy, feeding tactics, movements and migration, behavior (including fast-paced "rumbas"), vocalizations, taxonomic and whaling history, and their subsequent (partial) recovery. He visits experts in the field (John Calambokidis and Richard Sears) and interviews old whalers who were among the last to commercially exploit the species (legally) in the 1960s. He has a very easy-going writing style yet manages to be very informative. It also includes a number of color plates, including a photo of a rare white blue whale that has been repeatedly seen off California and Baja. A truly great book on such a fascinating creature.
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