War of the Whales: A True Story

War of the Whales: A True Story

by Joshua Horwitz


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War of the Whales: A True Story by Joshua Horwitz

Two men face off against an all-powerful navy—and the fate of the ocean’s most majestic creatures hangs in the balance.

War of the Whales is the gripping tale of a crusading attorney who stumbles on one of the US Navy’s best-kept secrets: a submarine detection system that floods entire ocean basins with high-intensity sound—and drives whales onto beaches. As Joel Reynolds launches a legal fight to expose and challenge the Navy program, marine biologist Ken Balcomb witnesses a mysterious mass stranding of whales near his research station in the Bahamas. Investigating this calamity, Balcomb is forced to choose between his conscience and an oath of secrecy he swore to the Navy in his youth.

When Balcomb and Reynolds team up to expose the truth behind an epidemic of mass strandings, the stage is set for an epic battle that pits admirals against activists, rogue submarines against weaponized dolphins, and national security against the need to safeguard the ocean environment. Waged in secret military labs and the nation’s highest court, War of the Whales is a real-life thriller that combines the best of legal drama, natural history, and military intrigue.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451645019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Joshua Horwitz is the coauthor of two books of nonfiction, Wrestling with Angels (with Naomi Rosenblatt) and If I Get to Five (with Fred Epstein, MD), as well as a young adult novel and several children’s books. In 1990, he co-founded Living Planet Books, an environmental small press and nonfiction packaging firm specializing in books by thought leaders in science, medicine, and psychology. In 2000, Horwitz co-founded AuthorsOnline, a website featuring the homepages of award-winning and bestselling authors.

Read an Excerpt

War of the Whales

  • DAY 1: MARCH 15, 2000, 7:45 A.M.

    Sandy Point, Abaco Island, the Bahamas

    Powered by his second cup of coffee, Ken Balcomb was motoring through his orientation speech for the Earthwatch Institute volunteers who had flown in the night before. The workday started early at Sandy Point, and Balcomb was eager to finish his spiel and head out onto the water before the sun got high and hot.

    “Take as many pictures as you like,” he told them, “but leave the marine life in the ocean. Conches in the Bahamas are listed as a threatened species, so you can’t take their shells home as souvenirs.”

    After a breakfast of sliced papaya and peanut butter sandwiches, a dozen volunteers sprawled across the worn couches of the modest beachfront house that Balcomb rented with his wife and research partner, Diane Claridge. Here, on the underpopulated southwestern tip of Abaco, far from the posh resorts on the tiny Out Islands elsewhere in the Bahamas, the only tourist activity was bonefishing in the clear, bright shallows of the continental shelf. What the tourists rarely glimpsed, and what the volunteers had come to see, were the reclusive Cuvier’s and Blainville’s beaked whales of the Great Bahama Canyon.

    For the past 15 years, the Earthwatch volunteer program had provided the sole financial support for the decadelong photo-identification survey of the beaked whales here in the Bahamas and of the killer whales in the Pacific Northwest. The Earthlings, as Ken and Diane called them, traveled from across the United States and around the world to assist their survey and to catch a fleeting glance of the deepest-diving creatures in the ocean: the beaked whales that lived inside the underwater canyon offshore from Sandy Point. For the most part, they were altruistic tourists, from teenagers to golden-agers, looking for a useful vacation from the winter doldrums up north. At Sandy Point, they could learn a little about whales, lend a hand in a righteous eco-science project, and enjoy the Bahamian sunshine.

  • Table of Contents

    Cast of Characters ix

    A Note About Acronyms xiii

    Prologue xvii

    Part 1 Stranded

    1 The Day the Whales Came Ashore 3

    2 Castaways 14

    3 Taking Heads 24

    4 The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Beachcomber 34

    5 In the Silent Service 45

    6 The Stranding Goes Viral 56

    7 "Unusual Mortality Event" 68

    Part 2 Acoustic Storm

    8 The Lone Rangers of the Environment 81

    9 Joel Reynolds Among the Friendlies 89

    10 The Whale Coroner Arrives 100

    11 Depth Charges 113

    12 Beachside Necropsy 126

    13 Cease and Desist 136

    14 Acoustic Storm 152

    15 The Sonar That Came In from the Cold 170

    16 Heads That Tell Tales 184

    Part 3 The Reluctant Whistle-Blower

    17 A Mind in the Water 197

    18 The Killer Turned Tame 210

    19 A Call to Conscience 221

    20 The Dolphins That Joined the Navy 232

    21 Mr. Balcomb Goes to Washington 244

    22 The Mermaid That Got Away 256

    23 In the Valley of the Whales 269

    Part 4 Whales V. Navy

    24 God and Country v. the Whales 283

    25 "It Is So Ordered" 295

    26 Counterattack 307

    27 The Admirals Take Charge 317

    28 The Highest Court in the Land 329

    29 Endgame 341

    Epilogue 349

    Acknowledgments 357

    Illustration Credits 361

    Endnotes 363

    Author's Notes on Sources and Interviews 385

    Recommended Reading and Resources 397

    Index 401

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    War of the Whales: A True Story 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A very gripping and broadly imformative account of assault on our oceans through history, and especially of a few brave men who forced the U.S. Navy to accept accountability for their role.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    An important new book about the conflict between national security and the life of marine mammals. 
    Ale Cabs More than 1 year ago
    This book is so good! It introduces information about whales that many people are not aware of. Explains and portrays the hardships environmentalists face when trying to do right by nature. Must read!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago