An exciting, in-the-chase, up-to-the minute look at the state of global whaling—nice companion volume to Eric Jay Dolin’s...

HARPOON

INTO THE HEART OF WHALING

Sydney Morning Herald reporter Darby ventures from Tasmania and Japan to Antarctica and Mexico as he tracks the ongoing destruction of the world’s whale population.

Despite the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, illegal hunting continues to take a toll. Darby profiles each endangered species in turn, digging though International Whaling Commission archives to root out the truth. The Right, a slow, steady baleen, was hunted to near-extinction in the Southern Ocean and the Atlantic by Basque and Long Islanders; protected since 1934, it was secretly chased by the Soviets but is now making a comeback. The Blue, a speedy Rorqual (the largest group of baleens), was routed by Norwegians and Americans from the Aleutians to the subartic seas of the North Atlantic. Out of nearly 40,000 Blues, more than 28,000 were killed at the height of the Antarctic whaling season in 1931, taken for the oil used in making soap and margarine. In need of protein for its starving people after the war, Japan resisted the 1931 Geneva Convention regulations to restrict whaling; General MacArthur’s complaisance “unlocked an industry that would shovel whale into the Japanese diet for a generation.” The tiny Minke was targeted especially by the Japanese, who still pursue it and the Humpback in the name of science. The big-headed warrior Sperm, with ambergris worth its weight in gold, was still being hunted into the ’70s, until Paul Watson of Greenpeace made whaling a “lightning rod for global species conservation.” Darby delineates both sides in the messy politics of whaling, and mixes in a lively bit of science and evolution. His study energetically underscores the need for continued vigilance in protecting these sublime ancient cetaceans.

An exciting, in-the-chase, up-to-the minute look at the state of global whaling—nice companion volume to Eric Jay Dolin’s Leviathan (2007).

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-306-81629-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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