A book I loved reading this summer and have not shut up about to anyone who will or won’t listen is “Listening To Whales: What The Orcas Have Taught Us” by Alexandra Morton. The book is about Alexandra’s life from when she decided she wanted to work with marine mammals, through to her work on killer whales and their habitat. It is both a fascinating insight into the killer whales in Northern British Columbia and the early days of research on this population. As well as the fascinating and beautiful personal and scientific journey Alexandra went on from a whaleless New England town across the country and then north to the ruggedly beautiful and, unforgiving Pacific Northwest region.
It is for me a must read. It is a fascinating, heartbreaking and sometimes shocking insight into the life of an amazing woman and the animals she studied and admired. There are beautiful moments of killer whales choosing to interact with vessels and having an apparent connection with its inhabitants. Brilliant descriptions of the growing understanding of killer whales intelligence, vocal and social capacity and heartbreaking stories of Orky and Corkey the captive killer whales at San Diego Seaworld. You’ll really get a feel for the raw intelligence of the species. I could hardly put it down, on one ferry journey I had to park the car and finish a chapter after I had disembarked as I couldn’t bare to drive home without finishing!
While reading it I bombarded Facebook and best friends with paragraphs about new and shocking or beautiful things I had learnt about killer whales and the region the northern residents call home.
A personal highlight was that I was living and working in the stunning Pacific Northwest on the same island that Alexandra currently lived on while reading the book and by some happy incident also working on photo ID matching of her 20 year catalogue of pacific white sided dolphins! It made it just that little bit more special to spend my days on the water where she spent her days, in the chop and fog, and my evenings working on matching images to her catalogue!
Read this book, you won’t regret it. Alexandra is an amazing and formidable lady who is now working to highlight the dangers and damages that farming Atlantic salmon is having on the region and Pacific salmon species. She has seen the changes from when the farms moved in up to now, some of which you can read about in the final chapters of Listening to Whales. Recently she was part of the documentary Salmon Confidential which aims to expose the cover up by the government of the identification of harmful European salmon viruses in pacific waters. I’ve heard very good things and am looking forward to checking it out.
So if you’re umming and ahhing about what to read next or even what to get the marine mammal scientist in your life give this book a try. You won’t regret it and hopefully will love it as much as I did.