FREEING THE WHALES: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event by Tom Rose

FREEING THE WHALES: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event

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An engrossing report on this year's media melodrama about the whales stuck in Alaskan ice. Rose, a TV news executive and reporter, covered the story for a Japanese TV network. The three whales that found themselves trapped in the rapidly freezing waters near the top of the world were, Rose points out, very lucky animals--""luckier than the whales reduced to Japanese beauty products and Russian ice cream by armadas of high tech factory ships."" Rose captures all of the twists and turns of the story that riveted world TV, from the moment that an Eskimo hunter accidentally found the whales trapped in the ice through all of the media hoopla that followed. In the process, we learn much about a totally different way of life in an area where the population settles in for 67 day-long nights; white men fall exhausted after only five minutes of work while Eskimos toil on, gloveless; five-mile sled rides can cost up to $200; and alcohol all too often becomes the human fuel that compensates for the dire cold (Barrow has the highest rates in America of murder, rape, suicide, alcoholism, and wife-beating). Rose's narrative weaves many ironies in and out of the unfolding drama: the impromptu telephone love affair between an Alaskan National Guard colonel and a beautiful White House aide that ends in their marriage ten months later; the death of three children in a Barrow house fire, while the resources of the town are focused on the whales; the wishful attack by a fierce polar bear on a hovering helicopter on a photography mission; the collapse of the democratic government of Iceland, attributable to the passions aroused by whale protection and its effect on their economy; and--greatest irony of all--the ultimate rescue of the two surviving whales by the Soviet Union, the biggest slaughterer of the world whale population. A spirited account of media mania.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol