A thrilling investigation into whale science and animal communication, and a poignant look at how science may change our relationship with animals forever.
In 2015, wildlife filmmaker Tom Mustill was whale watching when a humpback breached onto his kayak and nearly killed him. A video clip of the event went viral, and Tom found himself inundated with theories about what happened. He became obsessed with trying to find out what the whale had been thinking. He wished he could just ask it. In the process of making a film about his experience, he discovered that might not be such a crazy idea.
Developments in natural science and AI mean that we are closer than ever to genuinely talking to animals. Scientists and start-ups across Silicon Valley and beyond are working to turn the fantasy of Dr Doolittle into a reality, using powerful new technologies to try to decode the languages of animals. Whales, with their giant mammalian brains and sophisticated languages, offer one of the most realistic opportunities for us to do so. But what would the consequences of such human-animal interaction be? We'd open a Pandora's Box that could never be closed.
How to Speak Whale is a lively, wide-ranging investigation into animal communication that explores how close we truly are to communicating with another species, and – if we were to make meaningful contact – how it would impact the world we live in.
Tom Mustill is a producer, director and writer specialising in stories of where people and nature meet. His work with David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Stephen Fry and conservation and science heroes across the globe have won over 30 international awards, including two Webbys, a Wildscreen Panda, two Jackson Wild Awards and been nominated for a Primetime Emmy. He directed on the blockbuster Inside Nature's Giants series which won a BAFTA, Royal Television Society and Broadcast award, as well as the ZSL Award for Communicating Zoology.
"We rarely pause to consider what animals think or feel, or question whether their inner lives resemble our own. Tom Mustill's fascinating and deeply humane book shows us why we must do so – and what we, and the planet, could stand to gain by it"
– Greta Thunberg
"A rich, enthralling, brilliant book that opens our eyes and ears to worlds we can scarcely imagine"
– George Monbiot, Sunday Times bestselling author of Regenesis
"Tantalizing [...] Think how transformative it would be if we could chat with whales about their love lives or their sorrows or their thoughts on the philosophy of language"
– Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker
"Mind-blowing [...] You will never feel closer to the magnificence of whales"
– Lucy Jones, author of Losing Eden
"A scary, important and brilliant book [...] If we do get to translate 'whale', will we like what they've got to say?"
– Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan and Albert & the Whale
"Mustill takes us farther, much farther, than Dr. Dolittle ever imagined. And he does it with humility and sensitivity that befits the subject"
– Carl Safina
"Riveting [...] How to Speak Whale is one of the most exciting and hopeful books I have read in ages"
– Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
"Mustill conveys the richness of whale song and communication. Most of all we gain immense respect for these giants of the ocean"
– Frans de Waal
"A lively and informative read that heralds what could be the golden age of animal communication"
– Jonathan Slaght, author of Owls of the Eastern Ice
– Christiana Figueres