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The Great Sperm Whale: A Natural History of the Ocean's Most Magnificent and Mysterious Creatureby Richard Ellis
Synopses & Reviews
Over the past several decades, Richard Ellis has produced a remarkable body of work that has been called "magnificent" (Washington Post Book World), "masterful" (Scientific American), "magical" (Men's Journal), and a "dazzling tour de force" (Christian Science Monitor). Ellis's new book—a fascinating tour through the world of the sperm whale—will surely inspire more such praise for the author heralded by Publisher Weekly as "America's foremost writer on marine research."
Written with Ellis's deep knowledge and trademark passion, verve, and wit—and illustrated with a wide array of images including his own signature artwork—his study covers the full spectrum of the sperm whale's existence from its prehistoric past to its current endangered existence. Ellis, as no one else can, illuminates the iconic impact of Physeter macrocephalus ("big-headed blower") on our history, environment, and culture, with a substantial nod to Herman Melville and Moby-Dick, the great novel that put the sperm whale (and whaling) on the literary map.
Ranging far and wide, Ellis covers the sperm whale's evolution, ecology, biology, anatomy, behavior, social organization, intelligence, communications, migrations, diet, and breeding. He also devotes considerable space to the whale's hunting prowess, including its clashes with the giant squid, and to the history of the whaling industry that decimated its numbers during the last two centuries. He even includes a story about a beached juvenile he helped rescue, an event that provided scientists with one of their first opportunities to observe a sperm whale in the water and up close.
Offering a rich tapestry for anyone with an interest in the marvels of ocean life, Ellis's book provides an indispensable guide to the life and times of one of the planet's most intelligent, elusive, and endangered species.
An immensely engaging and profusely illustrated natural history of the sperm whale by a world-renowned writer and artist of marine life. This is a supreme guide to the planet's most intelligent, elusive, and endangered species--and also goes further to explore this iconic whale's impact on our history, environment, and culture.
From the Bibleand#8217;s and#8220;Canst thou raise leviathan with a hook?and#8221; to Captain Ahaband#8217;s and#8220;From Helland#8217;s heart I stab at thee!,and#8221; from the trials of Job to the legends of Sinbad, whales have breached in the human imagination as looming figures of terror, power, confusion, and mystery.
In the twentieth century, however, our understanding of and relationship to these superlatives of creation underwent some astonishing changes, and with The Sounding of the Whale, D. Graham Burnett tells the fascinating story of the transformation of cetaceans from grotesque monsters, useful only as wallowing kegs of fat and fertilizer, to playful friends of humanity, bellwethers of environmental devastation, and, finally, totems of the counterculture in the Age of Aquarius. When Burnett opens his story, ignorance reigns: even Nature was misclassifying whales at the turn of the century, and the only biological study of the species was happening in gruesome Arctic slaughterhouses. But in the aftermath of World War I, an international effort to bring rational regulations to the whaling industry led to an explosion of global researchand#8212;and regulations that, while well-meaning, were quashed, or widely flouted, by whaling nations, the first shot in a battle that continues to this day. The book closes with a look at the remarkable shift in public attitudes toward whales that began in the 1960s, as environmental concerns and new discoveries about whale behavior combined to make whales an object of sentimental concern and public adulation.
A sweeping history, grounded in nearly a decade of research, The Sounding of the Whale tells a remarkable story of how science, politics, and simple human wonder intertwined to transform the way we see these behemoths from below.
Offering a rich tapestry for anyone with an interest in the marvels of ocean life, Richard Ellis's new book—a fascinating tour through the world of the sperm whale—provides an indispensable guide to the life and times of one of the planet's most intelligent, elusive and endangered species. “Richard Ellis is a prolific and graceful writer who's written some of the best natural history books of the past decade.” —
About the Author
D. Graham Burnett is professor of history and history of science at Princeton University, where he teaches in the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities, and directs graduate studies in the Program in History of Science. He is an editor at Cabinet magazine and the author of four books.
Table of Contents
2. Mr. Melville's Whale
3. Whence the Sperm Whale?
4. The (Un)Natural History of the Sperm Whale
5. The Social Lives of Sperm Whales
6. Battle of the Giants
7. "I'll Have the Calamari...."
8. Making Contact
9. How to Catch a Whale
10. The War on Whales
11. "Can Leviathan Long Endure so Wide a Chase?"
Appendix. The Adventures of a Whale Painter
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