Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales

Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales

Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales

Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales


Personal, anecdotal, and highly engaging, Watching Giants opens a window on a world that seems quite like our own, yet is so different that understanding it pushes the very limits of our senses. Elin Kelsey's colorful first-person account, drawing from her rich, often humorous, everyday experiences as a mother, a woman, and a scientist, takes us to the incredibly productive waters of the Gulf of California and beyond, to oceans around the world. Kelsey brings us along as she talks to leading cetacean researchers and marine ecologists about their intriguing discoveries. We encounter humpback whales that build nets from bubbles, gain a disturbing maternal perspective on the dolphin-tuna issue, uncover intimate details about whale sex, and contemplate the meaning of the complex social networks that exist in the seas. What emerges alongside these fascinating snapshots of whale culture is a dizzying sense of the tremendous speed with which we are changing the oceans' ecosystems--through overfishing, noise pollution, even real estate development. Watching Giants introduces a world of immense interconnectivity and beauty--one that is now facing imminent peril.


This is a picture of my daughter, Esmé, whale watching. She is three and a half, and as her six-year-old brother, Kip, will tell you, if you want to get Esmé to go to sleep, all you need to do is turn on the Goodnight Moon tape or put her on a whale watching boat.

The waters surrounding Mexico’s Baja Peninsula are the best in the world for seeing the greatest diversity of whales. Little did I know, when I began scheming to bring my children with me to the Gulf of California to interview whale researchers for this book, that what Esmé would really get out of the deal was plenty of rest. She slept through the gray whale calving lagoons along the Pacific Coast. She slept through the blue whales and a thousand common dolphins off Loreto in the southern gulf. She even managed to sleep on a whale watching boat that turned out to be a booze cruise—complete with free drinks and the Bee Gees blaring from the stereo as it roamed for humpback whales off the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas.

There is no mention, in the hundreds of glossy brochures I’ve seen, of the sleep-inducing powers of whale watching. On the contrary, whale watching advertisements promise “ultimate” and “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences and feature photos of excited people shielding themselves from the ocean spray generated by whales leaping alongside their boats on brilliantly sunny days. Such images have parlayed whale watching into a billion-dollar industry— a jewel in the crown of ecotourism, the fastest-growing segment of the world’s largest industry, tourism.

But like the child who speaks the truth in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,”

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