Poet/academic Oxenhorn (Harvard/Public Policy Communications) joined Capt. George Nichols, Jr., aboard the tall ship Regina Maris to ""write up"" Nichols' Arctic expedition in search of the humpback whale. The result: an intense and often lyrical self, examination, and an excellent account of daily routine aboard a sailing vessel. As a first-time sailor, the author is required to take on the duties and rigors of an apprentice seaman--everything from washing dishes to climbing the rigging--but learning to live with (as well as gain the confidence of) 30 other crew members is mainly what this book is about. Leaving Boston Harbor in late June, the ship sailed off the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and Greenland. Ports-of-call along the way give a unique look at little-known communities such as the dreary, poverty, stricken city of Godthab, Greenland. It was weeks before the welcome ""Whale ho!"" sounded; Oxenhorn had ample time to learn sailing, observe his fellows, and test himself under trying circumstances. Once the whale herd was sighted, the scientists began taking thousands of ""fluke shots"" (a whale's flukes are as individual as fingerprints) in order to discern whether a whale spotted in the Arctic in July is the same one seen off Puerto Rico in December. In addition, the whales' diet and the temperature and salinity of the water were studied to project future migrations and gauge the potential impact of human disruption of the aquatic environment. Oxenhorn, who has sailed numerous times since this 1985 expedition, writes wonderfully, expertly balancing the personal and introspective with the technical and scientific. A memorable voyage.