Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us (Paperback)
In Listening to Whales, Alexandra Morton shares spellbinding stories about her career in whale and dolphin research and what she has learned from and about these magnificent mammals. In the late 1970s, while working at Marineland in California, Alexandra pioneered the recording of orca sounds by dropping a hydrophone into the tank of two killer whales. She recorded the varied language of mating, childbirth, and even grief after the birth of a stillborn calf. At the same time she made the startling observation that the whales were inventing wonderful synchronized movements, a behavior that was soon recognized as a defining characteristic of orca society.
In 1984, Alexandra moved to a remote bay in British Columbia to continue her research with wild orcas. Her recordings of the whales have led her to a deeper understanding of the mystery of whale echolocation, the vocal communication that enables the mammals to find their way in the dark sea. A fascinating study of the profound communion between humans and whales, this book will open your eyes anew to the wonders of the natural world.
About the Author
Born and raised in Connecticut, Alexandra Morton began her career in marine mammal research in 1976, when she moved to California to work for noted dolphin researcher, Dr. John C. Lilly. Since 1984 she has lived on the isolated central British Columbia coast, where she studies and records the language and habits of the various pods of orcas that swim the waters there.
“[Morton’s] descriptions of [the whales’] lives and their haunting underwater communications are so vivid that they will remain with you long after you have read the last eloquent page.”
“[A] WARM, ENERGETIC MEMOIR . . . An engaging tale of a woman’s commitment to science and a life well lived.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“AN EXTRAORDINARY BOOK ABOUT AN EXTRAORDINARY WOMAN. . . . This is a species that has learned to live in tolerance with each other, and to share in the resources of their world so that all can survive. Would that our species could learn to do the same.”
“A PASSIONATE MEMOIR BY A TRUE FIELD BIOLOGIST.”
“FASCINATING . . .
[Morton’s] writing reflects a deep respect for whales in general and killer whales in particular. The reader will find her regard contagious.”
“This book will immerse you in a magical underwater world. It will bring you face to face with some of the most intelligent and mysterious creatures on earth. Alexandra Morton is a meticulous scientist, but she is not afraid to let her love for the whales illuminate her writing, nor her distress and anger at the harm we are inflicting on their world.”
“One of the world’s premier orca researchers . . . Morton has emerged as a champion for the welfare of whales and the preservation of their habitat. Listening to Whales is an unusual and involving tale of a life committed to interspecies communication.”
“[Morton] is field scientist in the tradition of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. . . . Readers will be impressed by the physical hardships of field work, the moving account of the death of her marine photographer husband in a diving mishap, and her stories of rearing her children on shipboard and in an isolated coastal community.”
“Morton’s descriptions of individual orca movements, and how each relates to the species as a whole, course alongside her passionate defense of the ecological balance of the region; she infuses both with just the right amount of personal reflection.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Moments of quiet triumph illuminate this absorbing tale.”
—Christian Science Monitor
(Selected as One of the Best Books of 2002)
“ABSORBING, MOVING . . .
[Morton’s] book gives us invaluable insight into complex, wonderful creatures. It’s an eloquent testament to one woman’s efforts at interspecies communication.”
—The Calgary Sun
“Lyrical . . . Hopeful . . . Listening to Whales is a fascinating journey into the heart of a research scientist captivated by these magnificent creatures.”
“Leaves one questioning what we have done to our water-based, spy-hopping, family-loving cohabitants of this planet—and if we have not in the process diminished ourselves.”
—The Georgia Straight magazine
“Remarkable . . . An extraordinary tale . . . Fascinating reading . . . Full of both poignant and distressing moments . . . One of the chief pleasures of her book is the straightforward quality of her prose; one finds oneself halfway through the book in the blink of an eye.”
—The Grand Rapids Press
“As she wisely points out, what the whales need to survive—clean water, clean air, forests, and salmon—happen to be what we need as well.”
“Remarkably diverting . . . In plainspoken prose, Morton relates her work afield . . . She writes of her personal life with unembroidered ease as well, which is extremely powerful.”
“This is biographical natural history at its best.”