7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2006
If I believed in parallel universes I would think that somewhere there is another version of me, living in another version of Earth, in a place a bit like British Columbia in Canada. I'd live on the sea, somewhere rugged and remote and study marine mammals. The version of me writing this review took a different path in life but this book is as near as I'll get to that alternate life: and it does a pretty good job.
Alexandra Morton started her career at a marine park in California in the late 1970s. She began studying communication between dolphins but then changed her attention to the killer whales at the park and pioneered the recording of orca sounds using a hydrophone. Becoming increasingly perturbed by the concept of captive marine mammals, in 1984 she moved to a remote community in British Columbia changing the emphasis of her research from captive to wild orca.
Alexandra recorded the whales during mating, childbirth, training and grief and became to recognise the various patterns and what they mean. Her recordings have led to a deeper understanding of whale communication by echolocation and of the effects that modern fishing techniques and other human activities are having on the whales today.
I enjoyed the way this book was written: it is scientific but also deeply moving. She describes the tedious and meticulous job of recording and analysing the sounds recorded on her hydrophone: I'm not certain that the other version of me would have the patience for that. She describes how the whale researchers all interact to piece together what they can about the behaviour of whales in a way that makes you feel as if you have met them in person. She also documents the realities of life researching wild whales: the unforgiving weather, the isolation, life on a float-house, the death of her husband in a diving accident, making clothes for her children and the trials of bringing them up in a remote community.
Obviously this book also contains a considerable amount of information about the natural history of whales and their behaviour. For example, there are two types of whales: residents and transients and each type has their own diet, language and social system. This is very unusual in the animal world and usually only occurs when the communities are separated geographically. However, these two types of orca live side by side. You'd think that they would compete for resources (food etc.) but, fascinatingly, the resident pods eat fish but the transients eat mammals. This is possibly the only example of a `sympatric' species (animals that live in the same area but don't compete for food or habitat). The behaviour of transients is different to the residents: transients are quiet because their prey can otherwise hear them coming; they live in smaller groups and can hold their breath quietly. The fish-eating residents, however, can afford to be noisier and live in bigger groups. Alexandra co-authored one of the first scientific papers about the behaviour of these little-studied transient orca.
The book also contains photographs to really bring it to life. Books don't have to be novels to be escapist and this book illustrates that concept perfectly.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2014
This is an amazing book and if you are looking for a summer read which will allow you to think about our wider world rather than another chick lit novel about kooky girl meeting normal guy etc., then look no further. This beautifully written book that will make you appreciate the wonderful world of the sea and it's inlets. It will make you think differently about the captivity of these beautiful creatures for our entertainment. It is illegal to caputre humans and keep them in captivity for the entertainment of other humans, so why as intelligent beings do we do the same to highly intelligent sea life and other creatures. (I don't include environmental Zoos in this just entertainment parks and circuses).
Read this book and if it changes just one person's view about the beautiful and highly intelligent Orca it will be worth it. It has changed my view and where before I was ambivalent about places that use these beautiful creatures for our entertainment, now I abhor them and would never set foot inside of one or hopefully buy any product or visit any place that is owned by the same corporation.
If you are expecting to head to one of these places during your summer holiday this year please give some time to reading this book first and I hope it will change your viewpoint.
Farmed salmon also comes under scrutiney because of the damage it has done during the time it was allowed to be an unregulated activity.
Whilst I have not decided to up sticks and move to a such a remote place to protect the environment, I like one of the other reviewers would like to think that in a parellel universe there is another me doing just that.
Thnak you Alexandra for opening your science, your research, your world and most of all your heart to me. I for one have already changed my behaviour, although on a much smaller level I admit, because of your book. I think about the star fish quotattion about throwing the starf fish that have been washed up on the shore back into the sea and if only one survives it would have been worth it. If one person changes their behaviour as a result of this book then it will have been worth it. However I think anyone who reads this book will be moved to make some changes in their life even if like me it is only small changes. But if we all make small changes then these can add up to big changes.
Thank you Alexandra for the most amazing read I have had in along time.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2008
This book is out of this world.
I could not put it down once the working with Orky and Corky came up.
Beautiful photos and a beautiful book by Alexandra Morton.
The only disappointment was I had to finish it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2012
This book is captivating, you really feel like you are there with the author through all the experiences and trials. I was a bit disappointed with the last few chapters as they focus more on the aftermath of the fish farms and I would have liked it to go back to the whales but without giving too much away I understand why it did.
This really is a fantastic book and I was gutted when I finished it, there are constant suprises and I would definately read it again and again.
Thank you very much Alexandra Morton x
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2004
Alexandra Morton takes you into the wonderfull underwater world of the whales and their enviroment. There are moments that will make you laugh and cry and also be ashamed to be human. It will leave you in awe of orcas and marvalled by the intelligence that these sentient animals show. A definate for all animal lovers out there our any body considering visiting marine parks as this will open your eyes.