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Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  367 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Science entwines with matters of the human heart as a whale researcher chronicles the lives of an endangered family of orcas
Ever since Eva Saulitis began her whale research in Alaska in the 1980s, she has been drawn deeply into the lives of a single extended family of endangered orcas struggling to survive in Prince William Sound. Over the course of a decades-long caree
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book when Eva was in her last days, and somewhere in the middle of the book, she ventured into the realm of "and then..." So my heart is broken in two for the whales and for Eva. But I am in awe of this book--how it is biology and spirituality so inevitably intertwined. It's not necessarily a new way of seeing or understanding the natural world, but Eva found a way to put this way of knowing into words. ...more
Amara Tanith
A copy of this book was provided free via Edelweiss for the purpose of review.

tl;dr version: It's been quite a while since a book has had as great an emotional effect on me as Eva Saulitis's Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas. By the end of the book, I was very close to tearing up; it's quite a touching story, and the reality of it resonates with me.

My full review can be read at Amara's Eden.
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to have to do a much bigger (and more polished) review of this later but I had to write something now:

I loved slipping into the world of the Prince William Sound and the Chugach Transients with Eva Saulitis as a guide. Her writing is a pretty perfect mix of hard science but also emotion and personal reflection. Seeing her struggle with the horrific effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 on the Sound, it's creatures (the transiet orcas in particular), and herself was incredibly m
Erin Hollowell
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Devastating and beautiful.
missy jean
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is memoirs of Saulitis's early years studying a family of orca whales in Prince William Sound. There is science about orcas here, and there is also the poetry of place, and ruminations on the fruited blank spaces (of species and individuals) across which science cannot reach.

Eye to eye with an imprisoned orca, Saulitis writes: "Watching him, I felt the way I had the previous summer, seeing orcas swim through crude oil sheens--culpable, part of the mechanized world, reducible to the sum
Kristal Cooper
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
Eva Saulitis began studying a particular population of killer whales in Alaska's Prince William Sound a year before the Exxon Valdez disaster. One just has to look at the family tree illustration inside the back cover - or apply common sense - to know that it doesn't end well for these whales. Although every page I turned built my feelings of dread, I still enjoyed the journey thanks to the author's beautiful prose. She's a true naturalist and gives vivid descriptions of the weather, terrain, bi ...more
Lyssa deHart
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-group
I really enjoyed this book, I learned a lot about orcas and the symbiotic nature of life. It's by turns very scientific by observations, but it is clear that Eva loves these whales. From one of the scientific observations around the hunting orcas, I thought one of the quotes to remember was, "if there's a conversation of death, there's also an equally inscrutable conversation of life. There is death and there is play, and both are mysterious."

I learned something's I didn't know and I enjoyed to
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and was sad to see how much we mess up the planet and harm animals as well :( but overall a very good and informative read and made me want to go on a whale watch
Holly Madison
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
I was so happy to receive this book from the Goodreads giveaway. As an Environmental Science major (and animal lover), I have always found the looming threat of animal extinction to be very close to home. Orcas in particular are such precious, gentle giants... it's difficult to imagine that we humans can have such substantial and devastating impacts on nature without even realizing it's going on. The world is crashing down around us and most of us don't even care. And in the wake of pollution, o ...more
Michelle Rau
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a humbling, and scientific story about a passionate, budding biologist and one of nature's mysteries, the bond between orcas and their loyalty to their home. The battle between the love of such a majestic animal and science showed the parallels of mind over matter, so to speak.

A story that starts before the Exxon Valdez spill, and carries you through 25 years of heart breaking observations is beautifully written and poignant.

Read this if you like orcas, passion or science.
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I still have tears drying on my cheeks from finishing this book. I'm grieving the whales and the life of before . . . I'm traveling the channels of orcas with my dreams.

Saulitis' words are beautiful, honest, rich in science and beauty. I cannot recommend this memoir enough.

This book has shifted something in me, something that had slid out of place. I don't yet know how I will live the days ahead, but I know I will live differently.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Very little about Orcas and their ways, to much about the life of the writer, long descriptions of nothing at all, no developments whatsoever. Just too bored to continue.
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A poet and a marine biologist, Eva Saulitis started studying the Chugach transients right before the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and kept following them for over twenty years. Into Great Silence is a story of love, of loss. Of extinction.
Eva Salautis began her life's work in 1987 when she signed on to volunteer with whale researcher Craig Matkin in Prince William Sound. This is when and where she discovered her identity as a marine biologist dedicated to the study of an extended family of Chugach transient orcas. In 1988 she spent an idyllic summer among the orcas, living in a tent on a remote beach, and finding beauty and peace in the Alaskan wilderness. When she returned in 1989, the place had been fouled and permanently chang ...more
Ellen Naylor
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a sad book, as it's Eva's story of the loss of orcas after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. She studied the transient orca population in Alaska for over 20 years. My husband and I traveled to the Kenai Peninsula to celebrate a big anniversary. I understood how people could get bit by the Alaska bug, as nature there is like nowhere I have ever been.

This moving story took me to a place inside that I didn't know I had. While in Alaska we had seen some Orcas do their wonderful dance. I bonded wi
Carolyn Keel
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads-wins
I received this through First Reads Giveaways.

This book was so heartbreakingly sad but beautiful. I am an animal lover through and through, and I will admit it. There were several times during this book when I started crying. I just couldn't help myself. Part of it had to do with the story itself, but part of it was the beautiful writing style of Ms. Saulitis. She writes wonderfully. I highly recommend this book to... well... anyone.
Ecoute Sauvage
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great book on several levels. The author clearly loves orcas and has done wonders communicating with them - one wishes that she wouldn't call them "whales" though, as she obviously knows they are large dolphins. ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
warning: the "loss" in the title refers in part to the results of the Exxon Valdez oil spill... which makes parts of this book very bleak (though still more than worth one's time). ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Into Great Silence, by Eva Saulitis, is a moving memoir of her time spent in Prince William Sound studying the AT1 Transient pod orcas, better known to the author and reader as the Chugach Transients. Saulitis starts her story by showing the reader exactly how she started her study and how her fascination with the orcas began. Interestingly enough, her first encounter occurred while she was working at a fish hatchery, in which she saw the pod of orcas swimming nearby. Seeing as she was already i ...more
Tim Anderson
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this in a giveaway and was hoping I would. Thank you so very much. It was a great read. I was drawn into the mystery of Chugach transient orcas from the beginning. Eva's passion was infectious. I got so caught up in her search for answers that I kept turning to the front to follow on the map. Regretfully I had to google and find a better map. I tried to figure out where whale camp was located and exactly where the Valdez ran aground. This was my only downfall with the book.
I was inspire
Mark Smith
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We travelled to Alaska this summer and on a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park, were fortunate enough to see three of the Chugach transient orcas. We learned that they had names--Marie, Paddy, and Ewan--and that they had survived the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1988 (through Marie has not calved since). The tour boat guides, Justin and Clint, mentioned that a book had been written about these whales, "Into Great Silence," by Eva Saulitas. My wife put it on hold at the Austin Public Librar ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
It was...okay. Eva Saulitis is definitely not a minimalist in her writing style. I found 2 big things lacking in this book.

#1 - I know this may be a small detail to some, but the map was too minimal. How ironic?! Ms. Saulitis believes in writing in such a flowery style, but leaves major details out of the map. She keeps talking about Whale Camp. I'd refer to the map to see where she was talking about...nothing. Then she kept talking about the Labyrinth. Again, I went back to the map...nothing.
Jordan Lahn
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orcas
This book took a while for me to get through, but it was beautiful and poetic throughout. The author really captured the sense of excitement and wonder seeing these animals inspires, followed by the sense of mystery and awe at how little we know about their lives after they disappear beneath the waves. The loss of this unique group of orcas is heartbreaking when experienced through Eva's eyes. ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Another wonderful and sad book about orcas. I have been mildly obsessed with reading about Orcas since I saw blackfish. I guess there are not many happy books about orcas these days.... one of my lifelong dreams is to go see some orcas in the pacific northwest..
Pam Kirst
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Knowing the end of Eva Saulitis's story made reading this tremendously poignant. The fact that she grew up six miles from my hometown, and attended the same undergrad school caught me, too.
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
an amazing book by a scientist poet. stunning at every level
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, nonfiction
I think part of why I feel sort of conflicted in my opinions about this book is that I didn't really know what to expect going in. I've read and loved quite a few autobiographies by cetacean researchers, and find the particular combination of science and personal history that categorizes them to be fascinating. Starting this book, I anticipated something like that - but that isn't what this book is. Where other memoirs tend to be predominantly narrative, Saulitis's book is much more descriptive ...more
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kristina Lynn
I really enjoyed this book. A beautiful story of the life of a field biologist and a woman who saw magic and beauty in the lives of the orcas, seals and other inhabitants of the Sound. The way she explains the complicated emotions she felt about the spill and the loss of orcas is incredibly poignant and haunting.
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Do you think the damage from the Exxon Valdez was not permanent? Read this book, and you will think again.
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Eva Saulitis was the author of the forthcoming book, "Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas," (Beacon Press, 2012). She has studied whales in Prince William Sound, the Kenai Fjords, and Alaska's Aleutian Islands for the past twenty-four years. In addition to her scientific publications, her essays, poems, and reviews have appeared in numerous national journals, i ...more

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