We live in an age of giants. The largest animals to have lived are not dinosaurs, or woolly mammoths, or saber- toothed tigers. They are whales. Right now, you are sharing the planet with the most enormous animal to have existed: the blue whale ... If you don’t care about whales, you should still read Spying on Whales. I didn’t give two hoots about them last week, but after reading Pyenson’s book, I’m obsessed. Pyenson writes engagingly — although he is slightly over-fond of the scene-setting purple passages that are almost obligatory in popular nonfiction nowadays. He is also guilty of some fairly lame jokes ... Nevertheless, this is a lively survey of the past, present and future of these magnificent animals, which includes enough of Pyenson’s scientific adventures to make you feel that you have a vague sense of what’s going on at the cutting-edge of cetacean science. Great stuff. Save the whales!
When a paleontologist writing about whales begins by quoting naturalist Henry Beston, 'They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time'—you know you are in for a wondrous read. And Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson is indeed that ... Pyenson confesses that 'whales aren’t my destination: they are the gateway to a journey of discovery, across oceans and through time,' and he excels in taking his reader along on this journey ... The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft carry whale-song recordings as greetings to alien life-forms, although their meanings are yet to be understood. Despite all that humans have learned about whales, these sounds remain as mysterious as their makers.
What is it about whales that we find so fascinating? They are the largest animals that have ever lived on the planet, and humans have wondered about them for all of recorded history. Pyenson, an award-winning paleontologist and curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, takes a unique look at these enigmatic marine mammals ... Pyenson paints a history of how whales became the magnificent creatures they are today. Illustrated with beautiful line drawings, and heavily annotated, this is a hard-to-put-down quest to understand whales and their place on Earth.