Synopses & Reviews
“Unpredictable and amusing and informative and original, cavorting between biology, history, travel writing, and memoir.”
The Whale by Philip Hoare is a enthralling and eye-opening literary leviathan swimming in similar bestselling waters as Cod and The Secret Life of Lobsters. Winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, The Whale is a lively travelogue through the history, literature, and lore of the king of the sea—the remarkable mammals that we human beings have long been fascinated with, from Moby Dick to Free Willy. Bestselling author and naturalist Bernd Heinrich calls it, “a moving and extraordinary book,” and Hoares sparkling account of swimming with these incredible behemoths will delight whale and wildlife aficionados, lovers of the sea and sea stories, as well as the socially and environmentally conscious reader.
From his childhood fascination with the gigantic Natural History Museum model of a blue whale, to his abiding love of Moby-Dick, to his adult encounters with the living animals in the Atlantic Ocean, the acclaimed writer Philip Hoare has been obsessed with whales. The Whale is his unforgettable and moving attempt to explain why these strange and beautiful animals exert such a powerful hold on our imagination.
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.
About the Author
Philip Hoare is the author of biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noël Coward and the historical studies Wilde's Last Stand, Spike Island and England's Lost Eden. He is also the writer and presenter of the BBC Arena film, The Hunt for Moby-Dick. He lives in Southampton, England.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
TWOand#160;and#160; Into the Belly of the Beast
THREEand#160;and#160; The Prince of Whales
FOURand#160;and#160; A Cetaceous Parliament
FIVEand#160;and#160; Trials of Force
SIXand#160;and#160; Shots across the Bow