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Personal, anecdotal, and highly engaging, Watching Giants opens a window on a world that seems quite like our own, yet is so different that understanding it pushes the very limits of our senses. Elin Kelsey's colorful first-person account, drawing from her rich, often humorous, everyday experiences as a mother, a woman, and a scientist, takes us to the incredibly productive waters of the Gulf of California and beyond, to oceans around the world. Kelsey brings us along as she talks to leading cetacean researchers and marine ecologists about their intriguing discoveries. We encounter humpback whales that build nets from bubbles, gain a disturbing maternal perspective on the dolphin-tuna issue, uncover intimate details about whale sex, and contemplate the meaning of the complex social networks that exist in the seas. What emerges alongside these fascinating snapshots of whale culture is a dizzying sense of the tremendous speed with which we are changing the oceans' ecosystems—through overfishing, noise pollution, even real estate development. Watching Giants introduces a world of immense interconnectivity and beauty—one that is now facing imminent peril.
Kelsey, a scientist and author (Saving Sea Otters), meditates in 20 linked essays on the resident and visiting cetaceans-including whales, dolphins and orcas-of the Gulf of California. To convey what's known and suspected about the underwater mammalian lifestyle, Kelsey interviews dozens of contemporary ocean scientists-Exequiel Ezcurra, Bruce Mate, Fred Sharpe, husband-and-wife team Hal Whitehead and Linda Weilgart-and places their research in context alongside data on African elephant herds, antelope and wildebeest feeding strategies, the behaviors of predators and (especially) the dynamics of her own family (mom to two young daughters, Kelsey's first chapter is titled "Extreme Motherhood"). Focusing on social relationships and culture, Kelsey finds research (including submarine observations of sea-floor whale carcasses) that reveals some critical and previously unsuspected roles. Brilliant at pursuing seemingly unrelated trails back down the blowhole, Kelsey illuminates the "humanity" of whales, and the human threat to them; for instance, she explains why canned tuna is never really "dolphin safe" (motorized boats used to herd dolphins away from tuna cause sonic chaos, separating mothers from pups with often fatal results). Kelsey's cogent, compassionate work makes clear the sophistication and importance of whale communities, and how current efforts to save them may not be enough. 30 color illus.
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1. Extreme Motherhood
2. A Sea of Milk
3. Looking for Whales in All the Wrong Places
4. Resident Aliens?
5. How to Make a Really Rich Sea
6. Popular Mechanics: What Chimpanzees and Dolphins Can Teach Us about Tools
7. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Smartest One of All?
8. Building Nets from Bubbles and Other Mysterious Talents of Humpback Whales
9. Do Baby Sperm Whales Suck Milk through Their Noses?
10. Deep Culture
11. What's the Use of Granny?
12. Dolphin Snatchers
13. Friendly Mothers, Friendly Calves?
14. The War on Fish
15. Why Blue Whales Gotta Be Big
16. What You Can See by Listening
17. What You Can Learn from the Dead
18. Let's Talk about Sex, Baby
19. Missing Meat
20. Shifting Scale