Synopses & Reviews
Among all the large whales on Earth, the most unusual and least studied is the narwhal, the northernmost whale on the planet and the one most threatened by global warming. Narwhals thrive in the fjords and inlets of northern Canada and Greenland. These elusive whales, whose long tusks were the stuff of medieval European myths and Inuit legends, are uniquely adapted to the Arctic ecosystem and are able to dive below thick sheets of ice to depths of up to 1,500 meters in search of their prey-halibut, cod, and squid.
Join Todd McLeish as he travels high above the Arctic circle to meet:
Teams of scientific researchers studying the narwhal's life cycle and the mysteries of its tusk
Inuit storytellers and hunters
Animals that share the narwhals' habitat: walruses, polar bears, bowhead and beluga whales, ivory gulls, and two kinds of seals
McLeish consults logbooks kept by whalers and explorers and interviews folklorists and historians to tease out the relationship between the real narwhal and the mythical unicorn. In Colorado, he visits climatologists studying changes in the seasonal cycles of the Arctic ice. From a history of the trade in narwhal tusks to descriptions of narwhals' vocalizations as heard through hydrophones, Narwhals reveals the beauty and thrill of the narwhal and its habitat, and the threat it faces from a rapidly changing world.
Todd McLeish is the author of Golden Wings and Hairy Toes: Encounters with New England's Most Imperiled Wildlife and Basking with Humpbacks: Tracking Threatened Marine Life in New England Waters. He lives in Pascoag, Rhode Island.
"Narwhals is more than a 'whale of a tale' that lovers of the sea will enjoy reading. It also gives the reader a firsthand glimpse into the lives of Arctic dwellers as they struggle to survive in a changing world." -Dr. Robert D. Ballard, marine explorer and oceanographer
"Todd McLeish takes us far in several dimensions-across space, through time, and into the interiors of the human mental landscape-to paint a vivid and eloquent portrait of an animal seldom seen, wrongly imagined, and too often mistreated. This is one of those rare books that lifts you up and takes you in." -Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View From Lazy Point and A Natural Year in an Unnatural World
"In the Middle Ages, every terrestrial animal was believed to have a marine counterpart, thus the narwhal a mysterious, one-tusked Arctic whale was used to bolster the case for unicorns, and their tusks were sold for vast sums as unicorn horns. Though real, narwhals are poorly understood; research on the species has been slow and difficult, in part because the narwhal spends most of its life deep beneath dense ice. McLeish (Basking with Humpbacks), an amateur narwhal enthusiast, through his ardor and meticulous journalism profiles a fascinating creature physiologically adapted to extreme cold, deep diving, and darkness (narwhals rely on hearing much more than sight). The zoological portions of the book are balanced by human interest: McLeish adeptly describes the strange, small communities of people who live above the Arctic Circle. He is treated to narwhal blubber, an Inuit delicacy, and narwhal steak, while a large group of narwhal hunters and their wives watch closely for his reaction. He also delves into a hot controversy surrounding the potential purposes of the narwhal's 'horn'. McLeish is a careful narrator, prone to describing Arctic flora, but the book is a rewarding treatise on a fascinating animal. 12 illus. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"If you were one of those kids who pored over back issues of National Geographic, desperately wanting to know more about the Earth's most fantastical creatures, McLeish's narwhal odyssey is the book for you. Full of biological detail and adventure it captures in living color a species that may be gone before we even got a chance to properly know it." -Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish
"As one of the first general-interest books for adults dedicate to the narwhal, it's an important first start. Full of science, story, and some amazing images, Narwhals introduces us to the 'sea unicorn's' world." -Elizabeth Bradfield, Orion, July 2013
"His expertise shines in this pithy, entertaining book, which concludes with a sober assessment of the future for this species, one of only three truly Arctic cetaceans, in a warming world."?Kieran Mulvaney, BBC Wildlife
"Anthropology, conservation, biology and local cultural and economic considerations blend effortlessly in this account. Ultimately the reader comes away with a profound awareness of the complications involved in maintaining in perpetuity a long lived species whose behavioral and ecological circumstances ironically leave it vulnerable to anthropogenic perturbations." -Science Book and Film Review, American Association for the Advancement of Science
andldquo;Congratulations to Jeremy Evans for telling the truest story so far about Pavones, the iconic end-of-the-road place where human greed and conflict threatened to destroy exactly what brought people there.andrdquo;andmdash;Drew Kampion, award-winning author and former editor ofand#160;Surfer
andldquo;Jeremy Evans tells the true story of surfers, tuna, drug lords, and jungle fever in the backwaters and blue bays of Costa Rica. For anyone who has traveled the surf coast of Central America,and#160;The Battle for Paradise
and#160;is a must-read.andrdquo;andmdash;Serge Dedina, executive director of Wildcoast and author ofand#160;Wild Sea
and#160;andand#160;Surfing the Border
andldquo;The waves of Pavones rifle down a long left-hand point break, and for this reason they have become some of the most iconic waves in Costa Rica. However, as incredible as the waves are, the story behind the town is what will truly leave you gasping for air.andrdquo;andmdash;Kyle Thiermann, professional surferand#160;
andldquo;Pavones, Costa Rica, lay in a bucolic slumber until an entrepreneurial American smuggler with a Napoleon complex paid cash for a county-sized chunk of its surf-swept coast and made himself king. Things spiraled out of control from there, subsiding into a tropical stew of escapists, surfers, squatters, greed, and long, clean lefts.andrdquo;andmdash;Steve Pezman, publisher of the Surferandrsquo;s Journaland#160;
Pavones, a town located on the southern tip of Costa Rica, is a haven for surfers, expatriates, and fishermen seeking a place to start over. Located on the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), a marine sanctuary and one of the few tropical fjords in the world, Pavones is home to a legendary surf break and a cottage fishing industry.and#160;In 2004 a multinational company received approval to install the worldandrsquo;s first yellowfin tuna farm near the mouth of the Golfo Dulce. The tuna farm as planned would pollute the area, endanger sea turtles, affect the existing fish population, and threaten the world-class wave. A lawsuit was filed just in time, and the project was successfully stalled. Thus began an unlikely alliance of local surfers, fishermen, and global environmental groups to save a wave and one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.and#160;In The Battle for Paradise, Jeremy Evans travels to Pavones to uncover the story of how this ragtag group stood up to a multinational company and how a shadowy figure from the townandrsquo;s violent past became an unlikely hero. In this harrowing but ultimately inspiring story, Evans focuses in turn on a colorful cast of characters with an unyielding love for the ocean and surfing, a companyandrsquo;s unscrupulous efforts to expand profits, and a government that nearly sold out the perfect wave.
About the Author
Jeremy Evans is a former daily newspaper reporter whose eight-year journalism career garnered numerousand#160;awards for his outdoor and sports writing. He is the author of In Search of Powder: A Story of Americaandrsquo;s Disappearing Ski Bum (Nebraska, 2010) and currently teaches English at Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe, California.