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The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea

Written by Philip Hoare

Narrated by Michael Page


The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea

Written by Philip Hoare

Narrated by Michael Page

ratings:
3.5/5 (15 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 22, 2010
ISBN:
9781400185719
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

The whale is the largest, loudest, oldest animal ever to have existed. It is improbable, amazing, and-as anyone who has seen an underwater documentary or visited the display at the American Museum of Natural History
can attest-a powerful source of wonder and delight to millions. The Whale is an extraordinary journey into the world of this fascinating and mysterious animal.



Acclaimed writer Philip Hoare visits the historic whale-hunting towns of New Bedford and Nantucket, wanders the streets of London and Liverpool in search
of Melville's whaling inspiration, and swims with sperm whales in the middle of the Atlantic. Through the course of his journey he explores the troubled history of man and whale; traces the whale's cultural history from Jonah to Moby-Dick, Pinocchio to Free Willy; and seeks to discover why these strange and beautiful
animals continue to exert such a powerful grip on our imagination.



A blend of the travel and nature writing in the tradition of Jonathan Raban and John McPhee, The Whale is a gripping voyage into the heart of Hoare's obsession-and ours.
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 22, 2010
ISBN:
9781400185719
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Philip Hoare is the author of six works of non-fiction, including Leviathan or, The Whale, which won the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. Most recently, The Sea Inside (2013) was published to great critical acclaim. Hoare is also an experienced broadcaster, a Visiting Fellow at Southampton University, and Leverhulme Artist-in-residence at The Marine Institute, Plymouth University, which awarded him an honourary doctorate in 2011. He lives in Southampton.

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Reviews

What people think about The Whale

3.3
15 ratings / 15 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Gorgeous, sheer beauty.
  • (2/5)
    Thought I was going to love this book because of subject matter, but I just couldn’t get into it. Not sure if narrator or content.
  • (2/5)
    A slightly disappointing book. It was difficult to weigh up what the author intended. For a large part of the book he was following Herman Melville and Moby Dick. He digressed, reasonably enough, inot the whaling industry and its history. He then digressed further into varoius historical sightings of whales and whales used as fairground attractions. All mixed up with a bit of natural history and biology. It all gave the impression that he had too much research and wasn't sure how to put it all together but he wasn't going to waste any of it.
  • (1/5)
    I was hoping for a microhistory of whales and ended up with a collection of loosely connected things the author associated with whales. Not exactly my cup of tea. If you're interested in a history of whaling in New England or want to know where whale bones are located in the UK you might enjoy this. If you're looking for more information on cetaceans as animals, look elsewhere.
  • (3/5)
    This is a little hard to review. While I did enjoy the book, it was not what I was looking for. I wanted a history of Whaling. This book is three books in onw; Some history of Whaling, a biography of Herman Melville, and last but perhaps most of all, a homage to "Moby Dick." I am still looking for a good history of Whaling, one with numbers, statistics and yes GRAPHS and MAPS.
  • (3/5)
    Refreshingly, this book looks beyond the history of whaling and takes a very literary view to celebrate the author's fascination with whales. The writing is up and down, but it's at its best when Hoare is writing poetically about his love and fascination for them - especially the preface. At times, the book loses its balance by becoming absorbed in one angle more than any other, such as Melville. However, along the way, it takes some really interesting twists and turns to examine aspects of whales few have ever written about, such as the disposal of washed up whales and the history of whale casts at natural history museums. This is definitely a fresh take on the subject for people who have read one too many whaling books.
  • (5/5)
    Am I really about to recommend, wholeheartedly, a 420-page book about whales? Well... yes - even for readers who (unlike me) aren't already interested in mighty creatures of the deep.I could say at this point that the book isn't solely about whales - there is also quite a lot about the life of Herman Melville, and of course Moby Dick (did you spot the reference in the title of this book?).But honestly, it's mostly about whales - and the human relationship with them, from the incredible scale of the whaling industry to today's conservation tourism.So why is it so good? Well, the subject matter is interesting - both the whales, and the mind-boggling history of the whaling industry, from levels of danger to the enormous scale. It also turns out that there is a lot that we still don't know about whales:It was only after we had seen the Earth from orbiting spaceships that the first free-swimming whale was photographed underwater. The first underwater film of sperm whales, off the coast of Sri Lanka, was not taken until 1984; our images of these huge placid creatures moving gracefully and silently through the ocean are more recent than the use of personal computers. We knew what the world looked like before we knew what the whale looked like. Even now there are beaked whales, or ziphiids, known only from bones washed up on remote beaches - esoteric, deep-sea animals with strange markings which biologists have never seen alive or dead, so little studied that their status is 'data deficient'. New cetaceans are still being identified in the twenty-first century, and we would do well to remember that the world harbours animals bigger than ourselves, which we have yet to see; that not everything is catalogued and claimed and digitalized. That in the oceans great whales swim unnamed by man.But most importantly, as I hope that extract shows, Hoare is a great writer, with a wide range of knowledge, the ability to put it into context for the reader, and a real sense of the poetry and mystery of the subject. There is a loose structure to the book, with different chapters introducing different species (blue, sperm, nar-, and many others I would not have been able to name before) - but mainly it feels like one of those great conversations that move seamlessly from one subject to another, so looking back you wonder how you managed to range so widely.
  • (5/5)
    I bought this book on the back of the New York Times book review back in the spring, which was glowing. I began reading it a few weeks ago primarily as research. I expected it to be fine, from the review, but what got me, by the end, was Philip Hoare's obvious passion for his subject. At the start, the book looked like it was going to be overrun by Moby Dick and its monstrous sway over our society's conception of the whale, but, in the end his passion and almost spiritual drive to bring himself nearer his quarry sucked me in, wholesale.In the sense that I was able to appreciate the man's delight in what he was writing about and the feeling of wanting to rush back to the pages to see what happened next, this felt like a perfect, neat little book.
  • (3/5)
    Philip has written a pleasant book on whales. He provides a history of whaling and helps provide insight into the intelligence, uniqueness, and plight of whales. Philip seems a little stuck on the book Moby Dick, but I will give him credit for his final section on his experience of swimming with whales. Philip tends to get off on rabbit trails, but overall I liked his book. I frankly consider myself a naturalist concerned about our environment, polution, over population, and exploitment of other species. Thus, I lean toward any effort to slow down the extinction of species of animals, insects, etc. Truly it is sad how humans have and continue to hunt and kill whales. I recommend the book and applaud Phlip.
  • (4/5)
    I’ve always been fascinated by whales --- the size, intelligence, and grace of such large animals. As a child I wanted to be a marine biologist, a dream I’m sure that was prompted by a childhood trip to Sea World but that’s a story for another time.Philip Hoare is an interesting writer. He’s clearly a man in love with his subject and that I can appreciate. He has the same childlike fascination I have with whales and that’s what drove me to this book. Hoare’s also a man obsessed with Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, something I am not. Following Ishmael’s footsteps --- yes, the infamous “Call me Ishmael” character of the named book --- he takes the reader on a journey to quench a lifelong interest and come to an understanding with an animal we humans only understand through their death.Interweaving a lot of Melville throughout the first part of the book, it feels a bit like a literature lecture of sorts. While I found Melville’s relationship with Nathanial Hawthorne during his years of writing his famous tome to be somewhat relevant, I also felt like I wanted him to get on with the whale talk. Maybe I was expecting something more scientific but I can’t say that the first part intrigued me as much as the last.He does get into whaling and what it meant for the world in general and I have to admit that I didn’t really know there were so many uses for a single whale. It’s so much more than just the oil and meat but the skins for shoes, intestines for laces, ambergris for perfume. If you don’t know what ambergris is, well, it’s whale poo. Anyway, I was somewhat aware of the enormous carnage whaling created but when put in terms of lighting Victorian England, the need for whale oil seemed so much more destructive. For a species with no natural enemies, man managed to become the death of these creatures.I wanted to be blown away by this book and in many ways I was but it also felt like I was left wanting more. It’s a travelogue of sorts and you follow Hoare on his quest to find the meaning of the whale to him. While I found it interesting, I felt it didn’t do much for my quest.There are some very good facts and he has done his research well casting himself far and wide to discover everything he can from early whaling to the modern day culling to the science of whales. At one point he even communes with a few trying to understand them better.It’s a good book and a great look at creatures we know so little about. I’m glad to have read it. Hoare has an evocative style that makes you want to turn and ask him a question while reading. This style, even if you have no interest in whales, is enough reason to read this book.
  • (4/5)
    Our Last Heaven Beast There are any number of possible readings of Moby Dick. The only one that doesn’t particularly hold water is “it’s about a man’s pursuit of a whale”. It’s unarguably a politically charged allegory that abounds with metaphorical allusions and philosophical asides. Melville appropriates a hoary old myth to hang his metaphysical speculation upon.In an inspired reversal Philip Hoare takes Moby Dick as the framework for an exploration of the history of mans relationship with whales. At times it makes for uncomfortable reading – there’s something almost unbearably poignant about the rendering of a whale by a furnace fuelled by its own blubber. Thankfully the catalogue of slaughter is punctuated by fascinating asides – “Leviathan” is as much a collection of facts and curiosities as it is a narrative of the parallel decline of the whaling industry and whales.Whilst he’s clearly enamoured with whales he’s not some misty-eyed hippy. He’s careful to distance himself from some of the more outlandish claims of whale society and religion for instance. Although the Whales are not incidental, in common with Melville, he does have bigger fish to fry ( I know whales are mammals but bear with me ) - The conservationist argument bearing down is obviously meant to apply more widely.So, finally, why the title? To save you googling - it’s a lyric from “Don’t Kill The Whale” - definitely not Yes’s finest moment. Although I bought the single I still used to think it was mawkish and the description a bit of a stretch. Now, having read Leviathan, I’m not so sure.
  • (4/5)
    i have always been fascinated with whales. as a child, i wanted to be a marine biologist, so when i saw this on the bookstore shelf, i picked it up without question. unfortunately, the book was mostly about whaling/whale KILLING instead of whale behaviors, different kinds of whales, etc.i did enjoy the theme running throughout the book about whales being sort of magical creatures and the running narrative of moby dick, i just wasn't prepared for all the cruelty contained within the book.
  • (3/5)
    Poetically describes the wonder of whales--what they look like, how they behave, and where they live.
  • (4/5)
    People become fascinated by the oddest things. Philip Hoare is obsessed with whales. As a young boy he saw the great models of whales at the Natural History Museum in London. As he grew up he found his life and the existence of whales ever crossing and ever having more influence and meaning to him.The core of this book is Hoare’s reading of and response to the greatest whale book of them all, Moby Dick. Hoare has a sensitive ear to Melville’s language and has researched the bakground to the book and its interaction with history and reality.Hoare works hard to make us like the whale and to see its magnificence through his eyes. Mostly he succeeds. I wish I had known more about whales and had a more intimate relationship with Moby Dick when I read this book.This is a fine book that lets us into the mind and world of an obsessive, letting us see that there is something mysterious and grand to be obsessed about.
  • (4/5)
    I read 'Moby Dick' nearly 20 years ago and remember it as part masterpiece, part rather dull and self-indulgent (even if groundbreaking for its time). Hoare's personal exploration of the whale makes me want to read it all over again. Much of his book examines the background to Melville's novel and to Melville himself. It's fascinating, well-researched stuff, giving the book an edge that it would lack if it was simply about whales. That said, the material on whales is the most interesting. Incredible creatures that provide the author with a wealth of material that cannot fail to hold the reader's attention.