308 pages, b/w photos
For the past twenty-five years, Alexandra Morton has been at the forefront of whale and dolphin research, dedicating her life to the study of orcas (also known as killer whales). Now in Listening to Whales, Morton shares the spellbinding story of her career, her adventures in the wilderness, the heartbreak she has endured, and the rewards of living her life on her own terms.
Born into an artistic family in Connecticut, Morton experienced a seismic jolt when at age twelve she first read the work of primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and knew she wanted to study wild animals. Soon afterward, listening for the first time to orcas communicating with each other, she knew she had found her life work. In the late 1970s, while working at California's Marineland, Alexandra pioneered the recording of whale sounds by dropping a hydrophone into the tank of two killer whales. She recorded the varied language of mating, childbirth, and even grief after the birth of a stillborn calf. At the same time she made the startling observation that the whales were inventing and perfecting wonderful synchronized movements, a behavior that was soon recognized as a defining characteristic of orca society.
In 1984, Alexandra moved with her husband, photographer Robin Morton, to a remote bay in British Columbia to continue her research with wild orcas. For a few idyllic years, Alexandra and Robin shared their passion for whales, cruising the green northern waters and raising a baby boy. But tragedy struck when Robin died in a terrible accident. Only the love of her son and her abiding dedication to whale research gave Alexandra the strength to continue her groundbreaking work. Her recordings of the whalesthat swim by her house have led her to a deeper understanding of the mystery of whale echolocation, the vocal communication that enables the mammals to find their way in the dark sea. She continues to be among the renowned researchers attempting to break down the barriers of interspecies communication.
At once an inspiring story of a woman's determination to live her life on her own terms and a fascinating study of the profound communion between humans and whales, Listening to Whales will open your eyes anew to the wonders of the natural world.
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