The Unlikely Harmony Between Killer Whales and Whalers in 19th Century Australia and Other Wonders of Cetacean-Human Relations, Explored in Two New Books

by Owen James Burke

cultlives

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, 2014.

Killer whales are xenophobic dupes. Bottlenose dolphins are rapists. We’ve come to accept these highly intellectual social constructs in other mammals, but can we come to understand that if other mammalian societies have such organized complexities, that perhaps they have implications for humankind, too? These are the questions posed by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, authors of The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, and Carl Safina in his latest book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell–two lifelong cetacean researchers–explores the very divergent cultural constructs of orca (killer whales–dolphins, actually) and sperm whales.

Read an excerpt from The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins below:

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.41.11 AM


beyondwords

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, Carl Safina, 2015.

Safina’s new book, Beyond Words, brings similar anecdotes to light. Why is it that after decades spent with a group of bottlenose dolphins, the one time Denise Herzing’s research expedition was met with trepidation instead of a joyous reunion was when–it was later discovered–a member of the team lay dead in his bunk? Could the dolphins sense death through a steel keel?

“Along with Darwin’s Origin and Richard Dawkins’s Selfish Gene, Beyond Words marks a major milestone in our evolving understanding of our place in nature,” writes the New York Review of Books. “Indeed it has the potential to change our relationship with the natural world.” I only hope that as humanity continues its heavy fall from grace, that it will be the elephants and cetaceans filling the void, and not the desktop computer. Either way, we’re in for a pounding for the ages.

Order Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel and The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins,  and read a Scuttlefish interview with Susan Casey about her new book, Voices in the Ocean: The Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins. -OJB

Facebook Comments