Susan Casey swims with the dolphins. Photo: Susan Casey.
Former Editor of O: The Oprah Magazine and creative director for Outside Magazine Susan Casey, is author of New York Times bestsellers The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks and The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean. Just this month, she’s released her third title, Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins.
I caught up with her in the midst of her book tour to find out how she came to pack up her New York City office and leave her editorship at O, The Oprah Magazine, and embark upon a 5-year research project which led her around the world from Hawaii and The Solomon Islands to Japan and Greece.
In Voices in the Ocean, we learn that dolphins, which shed their fur, ditched their legs and crawled into the sea 55 million years ago, are not only equipped with larger, more developed brains than ours, but also bear greater emotional capacity than humans. In fact, as you’ll read, we are inferior to dolphins in almost every way. Between their sonar capabilities and oversized noggins, it’s no wonder NASA and several of the world’s Navies have called on the dolphin for help time and time again.
Casey takes us from the early days of of mad scientists experimenting with psychoactive drugs and even interspecies romance to the post-Flipper Sea World craze–a trade, which we learn is run by a bunch of ruthless gangsters, is still reaching new heights today. Through scientific lenses hard and soft, she explores an almost fantastical array of the miracles and tragedies of our complex relationships with these creatures which dates at least as far back as the Minoans of modern-day Greece, 5,000 years ago.
Photo Courtesy: Susan Casey.
The Scuttlefish: Voices in the Ocean is beautifully written – and you clearly got your nails dirty with the research. Reading it made me realize that that’s where I fell in love with the ocean, too —with dolphins. Flipper, specifically, did it for me. I wanted to be Sandy, in that little skiff living in Florida. That looked pretty good when I was a kid. Still does, as a matter of fact!
Susan Casey: Oh, me too. It does for all of us.
So, what led you to decide to leave your editorship with O? Did you get the idea for the book while you were there, was being in a New York City office too stifling, and is that why you dove into this new book?
I was working on the book while I was still at the magazine. I was doing some reporting, and thinking about the proposal. I don’t mind being in New York, but I’m not a lifer. I can spend periods of time there and be perfectly happy, but then I have to leave. Part of me is always in Hawaii, and that’s been the case since I wrote The Wave. I had a place there, and I was going as much as I could. But it’s a haul from New York—a 12-hour flight.