For three seasons, 1981-84, the 33-foot sloop Tulip sailed the Indian Ocean looking for whales. Sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, Whitehead and his rotating research crew studied the sperm whale in its natural habitat; heretofore, nearly all scientific studies of the sperm whale had been confined to carcasses provided by the whaling industry. Sailing from Crete through the Red Sea to Sri Lanka, Tulip headed for 19th-century whaling grounds. The team found sperm and pilot whales and, to their surprise, blue whales off the east coast of Sri Lanka. They swam with the sperm whales, photographed them, witnessed a birth. The book provides information on social behavior, mating, communication and migration--and a powerful argument against killing whales for ``research.'' Sailing buffs should be warned that the seafaring experience takes second place to the whales in this exciting story. Photos. Great Outdoors Book Club main selection; Dolphin Book Club selection. (Apr.)
Each of these books makes a unique contribution to the increasingly diverse literature on whales. Neither one is strictly a scientific review; in fact, each book possesses a distinct narrative voice. Orca, or ``killer,'' whales in the area off Cape Cod and Maine are the focus of Gormley's book, which is written from the point of view of the whales. Observations of fishers, researchers, and sailors are woven together into a life history of an Orca family group. Whitehead tells the story of his research project to study sperm whales in the Indian Ocean on a small sailing boat. His problems with finicky winds and an unreliable engine and his disheartening bureaucratic encounters provide a dramatic contrast to the popular ``romantic'' image of a scientific sea cruise. While Gormley offers a more complete picture (albeit a somewhat speculative one) of a particular whale group, Whitehead tells a realistic tale of research at sea--a bit short on scientific detail regarding the project itself--but a welcome addition to the literature nevertheless. Both are recommended for public library collections. --Susan Klimley, Columbia Univ. Libs.
YA --A detailed and timely account of Whitehead's ``benign research'' on living sperm whales, conducted from his small sloop as he and his crew studied them through underwater tracking equipment and actual sightings. It is a tale of personalities living and working in cramped conditions, government red tape, faulty equipment, frustrations, and accomplishments, as well as a geography lesson for those unfamiliar with the Indian Ocean and surrounding countries. The abundant information about whales is written in a clear, easily readstyle and is punctuated with humor, but leaves no doubt as to Whitehead's passion for his subject. Illustrated with vivid and well-placed photographs, this title will capture the interest of any would-be marine biologist or reader of true-life adventure stories.-- Katherine Fitch, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA