Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us

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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.
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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.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Dec 30, 2008
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780307487544
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
Nature / Animals / Mammals
Science / Life Sciences / Zoology / Mammals
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The heartbreaking and true story of a lonely orca named Luna who befriended humans in Nootka Sound, off the coast of Vancouver Island by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm.

One summer in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, a young killer whale called Luna got separated from his pod. Like humans, orcas are highly social and depend on their families, but Luna found himself desperately alone. So he tried to make contact with people. He begged for attention at boats and docks. He looked soulfully into people's eyes. He wanted to have his tongue rubbed. When someone whistled at him, he squeaked and whistled back. People fell in love with him, but the government decided that being friendly with Luna was bad for him, and tried to keep him away from humans. Policemen arrested people for rubbing Luna's nose. Fines were levied. Undaunted, Luna refused to give up his search for connection and people went out to meet him, like smugglers carrying friendship through the dark. But does friendship work between species? People who loved Luna couldn't agree on how to help him. Conflict came to Nootka Sound. The government built a huge net. The First Nations' members brought out their canoes. Nothing went as planned, and the ensuing events caught everyone by surprise and challenged the very nature of that special and mysterious bond we humans call friendship. The Lost Whale celebrates the life of a smart, friendly, determined, transcendent being from the sea who appeared among us like a promise out of the blue: that the greatest secrets in life are still to be discovered.

To Touch a Wild Dolphin is the first intimate account of dolphin life in the wild. In 1982 Rachel Smolker traveled to Monkey Mia, a remote beach on the west coast of Australia where wild dolphins regularly interact with humans. Over the next fifteen years, Smolker and a team of fellow scientists were able to explore the lives of dolphins as they had never been explored before: up close, in their natural environment, with a definite recognition of individual dolphin identities.

Smolker came to know the relationships, histories, and "personalities" of the dolphins. In To Touch a Wild Dolphin she offers delightful portraits of dolphins she became close to, ranging from the playful and incredibly silly to the slightly crazy, moody, and unpredictable. This develops into an examination of dolphin society and the diversity of characters that inhabit it. And ultimately from the intriguing, sometimes violent differences between the sexes to the nature of mother-infant relationships, to the wide repertoire of sounds used for social communication Smolker is able to reveal the inner workings of dolphin life with unprecedented clarity.

Smolker was initially attracted to dolphins for the reasons that attract so many people to them: an elusive sense of their intelligence and their social and emotional complexity, a sense that despite the fact that we live in such entirely different worlds, dolphins are somehow like us. Now, after years of fascinating, inspiring, sometimes troubling, and occasionally heartbreaking experiences with the dolphins of Monkey Mia, Smolker is able to unravel many of the mysteries surrounding these beloved animals.

To Touch a Wild Dolphin is a personal book in many ways, at the level of the dolphins and also at the level of the scientist. It is an important book, one that greatly enhances our understanding of dolphins and of ourselves, and as such it will take its place alongside such classics as Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf and Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man.
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