It all started in 1965 with a guy riding a whale. The guy was Flip Nicklin’s father, Chuck, and the whale was an unlucky Bryde’s Whale that had gotten caught up in some anchor line. Hoping to free the whale, Chuck and some friends took their boat as near as they could, and, just before they cut it loose, Chuck posed astride it for a photo.
That image, carried on wire services nationwide, became a sensation and ultimately changed the life of Chuck’s young son, Flip. In the decades since that day, Flip Nicklin has made himself into the world’s premier cetacean photographer. It’s no exaggeration to say that his photos, published in such venues as National Geographic and distributed worldwide, have virtually defined these graceful, powerful creatures in the mind of the general public—even as they helped open new ground in the field of marine mammalogy.
Among Giants tells the story of Nicklin’s life and career on the high seas, from his first ill-equipped shoots in the mid-1970s through his long association with the National Geographic Society to the present, when he is one of the founders of Whale Trust, a nonprofit conservation and research group. Nicklin is equal parts photographer, adventurer, self-trained scientist, and raconteur, and Among Giants reflects all those sides, matching breathtaking images to firsthand accounts of their making, and highlighting throughout the importance of conservation and new advances in our understanding of whale behavior. With Nicklin as our guide, we see not just whales but also our slowly growing understanding of their hidden lives, as well as the evolution of underwater photography—and the stunning clarity and drama that can be captured when a determined, daring diver is behind the lens.
Humpbacks, narwhals, sperm whales, orcas—these and countless other giants of the ocean parade through these pages, spouting, breaching, singing, and raising their young. Nicklin’s photographs bring us so completely into the underwater world of whales that we can’t help but feel awe, while winning, personal accounts of his adventures remind us of what it’s like to be a lone diver sharing their sea.
For anyone who has marveled at the majesty of whales in the wild, Among Giants is guaranteed to be inspiring, even moving—its unmatched images of these glorious beings an inescapable reminder of our responsibility as stewards of the ocean.
From the Bible’s “Canst thou raise leviathan with a hook?” to Captain Ahab’s “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee!,” 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 research—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.
Touching This Leviathan asks how we might come to know the unknowable—in this case, whales, animals so large yet so elusive, revealing just a sliver of back, a glimpse of a fluke, or a split-second breach before diving away.
Whale books often sit within disciplinary silos. Touching This Leviathan starts a conversation among them. Drawing on biology, theology, natural history, literature, and writing studies, Peter Wayne Moe offers a deep dive into the alluring and impalpable mysteries of Earth’s largest mammal.
Entertaining, thought-provoking, and swimming with intelligence and wit, Touching is Leviathan is creative nonfiction that gestures toward science and literary criticism as it invites readers into the belly of the whale.
Relating his experiences caring for endangered whales, a veterinarian and marine scientist shows we can all share in the salvation of these imperiled animals.
The image most of us have of whalers includes harpoons and intentional trauma. Yet eating commercially caught seafood leads to whales’ entanglement and slow death in rope and nets, and the global shipping routes that bring us readily available goods often lead to death by collision. We—all of us—are whalers, marine scientist and veterinarian Michael J. Moore contends. But we do not have to be.
Drawing on over forty years of fieldwork with humpback, pilot, fin, and, in particular, North Atlantic right whales—a species whose population has declined more than 20 percent since 2017—Moore takes us with him as he performs whale necropsies on animals stranded on beaches, in his independent research alongside whalers using explosive harpoons, and as he tracks injured whales to deliver sedatives. The whales’ plight is a complex, confounding, and disturbing one. We learn of existing but poorly enforced conservation laws and of perennial (and often failed) efforts to balance the push for fisheries profit versus the protection of endangered species caught by accident.
But despite these challenges, Moore’s tale is an optimistic one. He shows us how technologies for ropeless fishing and the acoustic tracking of whale migrations make a dramatic difference. And he looks ahead with hope as our growing understanding of these extraordinary creatures fuels an ever-stronger drive for change.
For more information on Moore’s book and research, please visit his webpage at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Despite a decades-long international moratorium on commercial whaling, one fleet has continued to hunt and kill whales in the waters surrounding Antarctica. Refusing to let this defiance go unchallenged, the environmental organization Greenpeace began dispatching expeditions to the region in an effort to intercept the whalers and use nonviolent means to stop their lethal practice.
Over the past decade, Kieran Mulvaney led four such expeditions as a campaigner and coordinator. In The Whaling Season, he recounts those voyages in all their drama, disappointments, strain, and elation, giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the hazards and triumphs of life as an environmental activist on the high seas. The author also explores the larger struggles underlying the expeditions, drawing on the history of commercial whaling and Antarctic exploration, the development of Greenpeace, and broader scientific and political efforts to conserve marine life. He presents a rich portrait of the current struggles and makes an impassioned plea for protection of some of the world’s most spectacular creatures.
For armchair adventurers, polar enthusiasts, and anyone concerned about marine conservation and continued hunting of the world’s whales, The Whaling Season is an engrossing and informative tale of adventure set in one of the Earth’s last great wilderness areas.
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