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Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  4,153 ratings  ·  605 reviews
*Now a New York Times Best Seller*

Over the course of two decades, John Hargrove worked with 20 different whales on two continents and at two of SeaWorld's U.S. facilities. For Hargrove, becoming an orca trainer fulfilled a childhood dream. However, as his experience with the whales deepened, Hargrove came to doubt that their needs could ever be met in captivity. When two f
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Hardcover, 264 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by St. Martin's Press (first published March 1st 2015)
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4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,153 ratings  ·  605 reviews


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Ana O
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, bios
We swam with them. We kept them healthy. We saw them give birth. We watched them suffer. We suffered with them. We looked them in the eye and caught a glimpse into their souls. Sometimes, we saw joy. Sometimes, we saw things that were terrifying.


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Bad humor. #sorrynotsorry


I've been rereading Beneath the Surface, one of my favorite books on killer whales. Yes, my Orcinus orca obsession is still going strong and I hope it never ends.

I know what you must be thinking: 'Oh no, not another anti-c
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Julia's Book Haven
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've thought a lot about my response to this book, mostly it was sadness and hatred. This is a topic that I feel very strongly about. I'm not a big fan of zoo's or aquariums, but I hate Sea World. If for some reason you think its okay that we are keeping these beautiful, extremely intelligent animals in what to them is basically a jail cell, then read this book. Hell just do some basic research and you'll see that it isn't right. Now obviously and sadly the 30 or so whales currently in captivity ...more
Dan Curnutt
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
When you read a book by a "Whistleblower" you aren't sure if you are going to get an informational read or maybe just some angry diatribe by the individual about how the "Corporate World" treated them poorly. So, when I asked for this book to review I was a bit worried about what I would find. I didn't want the angry diatribe.

I was pleased that the book did not just come off as a way for John Hargrove to paint SeaWorld as a terrible monster. Now, with that said it did not let SeaWorld off the ho
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Kasia
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Finished it in one sitting. Never gave much thought to what it takes to train killer whales. It was such an eye opening. Great learning experience. RIP to all those who lost their lives working with those amazing and unpredictable animals.
Sarah
The first thing I want to say is that I went to Sea World when I was younger. I saw the trainers in the water with the orcas and I thought it was one of the most magical things I had ever seen in my life. To see these big beautiful whales working together with humans was incredible and both the trainers and the whales looked so happy. But one thing that shocked me was the marks on the whales that I now know are called rake marks. When I asked my dad what those were he said that they were marks f ...more
Carol
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
John Hargrove was only six years old when he first saw his first Sea World Show. From that time on, that was the place he wanted to go. Not only did he want to be an Orca but he want to be an expert trainer. Every time he went to the show, he stayed after and asked trainers so many questions. Being an expert trainer became his dream. He began working at the lowest paying jobs in Sea World. He worked on the swimming requirements and a college degree to get a job with Sea World. He worked in the U ...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After watching the excellent documentary BLACK FISH, I was further inspired to read John Hargrove's account of his experiences as a Sea World orca trainer. BENEATH THE SURFACE takes a closer look at the world of aquarium trainers and the care/treatment given to ocean mammals, specifically killer whales. The book centers on orcas that John personally worked with. This was a fascinating read and a great companion resource to the documentary. Highly recommended!

On a side note, Tilikum, the giant ma
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Sarah
If Death at SeaWorld (see previous review) represents the scientific and political argument against whales in captivity, Beneath the Surface gives us the heart and soul of the matter. Less quantifiable perhaps, but no less valid.

John Hargrove was a veteran trainer at SeaWorld by the time he consciously realized the fundamental inhumanity of keeping whales in captivity and left the company in 2012. So wonderfully dedicated and connected to the whales he worked with, Hargrove spent many years defe
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Nico
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I looked forward to reading this book for months. I am absolutely disappointed by this book.

I wanted it because I thought it would be about the cruelty of SeaWorld and captivity of its whales. I thought it was going to be a former employee shedding some light on what happens backstage.

Not so.

Most of the book, is in fact, his autobiography. Most of what he has to say about SeaWorld is heavily touched with nostalgia and regret. Many phrases about how he regrets the loss of being able to swim wit
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Max
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
A very important book about marine animal captivity. Stories like these are not everyone's cup of tea, but I am very interested in those so I read books like these even though it can get a little depressive. This is a honest story, kind of sad. It's also adapted to a TV production so if you'd rather watch I recommend that as well.
Melissa
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone with a beating heart & the love for life of anything with a beating heart
Recommended to Melissa by: Goodreads First Reads & PalgraveUSA listing
With regards to a book of this nature, the topic at hand, and the powerfully heartbreaking story it is, star rating this book seems wrong, however that's what the ratings are here for and five stars doesn't even begin to express what John Hargrove put into it Beneath the Surface Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove

I have so much to say about this book, the mask that Seaworld hides behind, the most Gorgeous Beings of the OCEAN , where they belong, but are kept in captivity in horrendous, horrific, heartwrenching abuse all for the Love of a good show.
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Ariel
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
After you have read this book you will never be able to see cetacea captivity in the same way again. I had already made up my mind about Sea World after reading David Kirby's book Death at Sea World. John Hargrove's book just reinforced everything I already knew and felt. This past January I had the honor of meeting and speaking with some of the people John Hargrove mentions in his book. Jane-Velez Mitchell, Naomi Rose, and Howard Garrett, along with two thousand other people gathered at the Mir ...more
Elizabeth Batt
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If one wonders what life is like for an apex predator confined to a tank, then 'Beneath the Surface' offers a front row seat. Served with a dose of psychological clarity, the author weighs in on the complicated and muddied waters of the trainer-whale relationship.

With the orca captivity debate still raging, Hargrove highlights one thing about forcing whales into artificial environments – it’s complicated and often dangerous. Having worked with 20 different whales during his career, only someone
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Ken
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I tried not to be biased! I even looked up "the truth about Blackfish" by Seaworld.

I find all Seaworld argument to be statements without any supporting evidence. While Mr.Hargrove's are well detailed and convincing (it would be difficult to elaborate as concisely if fictionalized).

It is unfortunate that it becomes an Us vs Them situation. It is unfortunate that Seaworld takes the stand of Captivity-of-Orcas-for Education/Research purposes and not profit-making.

Seaworld should take a 90 degree t
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Lilyleia78
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was amazing. It was well written and easy to read and to understand. Much more than a rehash of Blackfish, John Hargrove here tells his story, and the stories of the whales he loves, as a high level trainer with Sea World. His joy and heartache are equally explored.

The book offers an insiders view of the dangers to the trainers, the inherent cruelty of Orca captivity, and the link between the two. I'm currently also reading a book about North Korean labor camps and some of the explana
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Wendi Manning
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. I wasn't sure if this was going to be nothing but a bashing of SeaWorld, but it wasn't. It was a story about a man who loved whales, dedicated his life to them. He started by training them, then moved on to fight for them.

It's not an easy read by any means. There's a lot to think about and a lot to learn. It's not written in a heavy textbook way, you learn through his descriptions and stories. I loved his description of a hydro-hop, the details of it made me want to try
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Joe
May 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book says little that Blackfish doesn't say better. One senses Hargrove's yearning to share his truth but is left perplexed and wanting when his truth comes out lacking urgency or depth. I can see why this leads to accusations of profiteering. I'm both more and less generous than that; I just don't think Hargrove himself has the emotional range to pull this off. The book toggles between three basic feelings, and hits some false notes in the process: continuing to refer to attacks on humans ...more
Polly Krize
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

John's love of these magnificent beings is obvious, as is his determination for them to be treated as humanely as possible in the artificial environment they are forced into in SeaWorld. Throughout this book he demonstrates his love and reverence for the orca, and his involvement with them shaped his life. His keen awareness of their behaviors and feelings reinforces his devotion. In choosing to speak out against his former employer
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Lizzie
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Like Blackfish, devastating. A must read.
Ethan
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
With the summer season about to begin, many families will make the trip to visit the various theme parks across the country. For over 50 years, SeaWorld has promoted its message of conservation through education and entertainment, and has become one of the largest and most recognizable attractions in the US. But the park that has become synonymous with family fun faced a day, in 2010, of pure terror and tragedy. I'm talking, or course, about the death of seasoned orca trainer Dawn Brancheau who ...more
RitaSkeeter
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
One of the best days in life, and the memory most important to me from all of my travels, was an afternoon in Alaska. I was on a whale watching tour to see Humpbacks. Beautiful beautiful beings, and the day was amazing already having seen many. But the crew of the boat became very excited, and the boat was approached by a pod of resident orca. Many time they surfaced so near to the boat they felt within reaching distance. As if the day wasn't already mindblowing enough, the crew lowered a hydrop ...more
Bookworm
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The documentary Blackfish has interviews with former SeaWorld orca trainers, which is really what makes you stop and listen because you are hearing it directly from people who experienced it first hand. One such former trainer is John Hargrove and he went on to write this book, Beneath the Surface. I have to give it up to him because speaking out against an empire as powerful as SeaWorld cannot be an easy feat. His writing this book is a testament to how much he cares for these creatures.

Hargrov
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Kathleen Smith
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loved-it, completed
I started watching the movie Blackfish, because it was mentioned in the Advanced Readers Copy I was lucky enough to be able to review Beneath the Surface, by John Hargrove and Howard Chua-Eoan. The film premiered in 2013 at Sundance. I am sure that I saw some coverage on TV, however I was recuperating from an accident, leaving me with severe spinal injuries.
In John Hargroves fact filled novel he uncovers and speaks of so many occurrences that there is no way that I could even begin to summarize
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Sarah
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Although I had done plenty of reading about the plight of captive orcas, I could not - and still cannot - stomach watching Blackfish. It was just too difficult to see. While Beneath the Surface is not an easy read at all, it is perhaps more bearable for those who are sensitive to sight and sound.

It is clear from the onset that John Hargrove loved these whales - and by the end of the book, you love them too. I'm not sure what person could finish this book and not be outraged over the plight of th
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Erik
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

My biggest concern when I started reading Beneath the Surface was that it wouldn't differentiate itself from Blackfish, a documentary I valued greatly and had already influenced my actions as I choose against doing a swim with the dolphins activity during a Caribbean vacation, a small stand against animals in captivity. Mostly, I didn't see how written word could match the sensory emotion
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Tammy Moore
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished
I was just floored reading this book. I saw Blackfish when it came out, but this book gives so much more depth to the information provided by the documentary. It was nice to hear a trainers side of the story in such a clear and intellectual way.
This wasn't a tirade against Seaworld, nor an angry rant by activist. It is an account if his time as a trainer, what he saw and what he learned there. It does of course have his opinions scattered throughout, but as a person with so many years of experi
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Pam
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great follow-up to blackfish. The author provides an amazing story of his approximately 20 years working with orcas around the world, but mostly with SeaWorld. He clearly loves the orcas and loved what he did as a trainer. But he also tells the reality of the problems the orcas have experienced in captivity and the dangerous situations the trainers have gotten into over the years, culminating in the death of two trainers within a short period of time. As someone who has a mixed fe ...more
Kasey
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Heart wrenching...I understand that these animals can never go back to the ocean. I also understand that Sea World no longer takes whales from the ocean. However, I now cannot understand why they continue to breed orcas even after all of the evidence points to the fact that they are not healthy, thriving animals. I have been to Sea World for the last time.
Lindsay
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read about the horrors of Sea World and their mistreatment of trainers and whales, from someone who experienced it all first hand. I highly recommend this book along with Blackfish (documentary).
Fritzov
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, none-fiction
Loved Blackfish and loves this book. Truly amazing story. Keeping animals in captivity is bad, having them preform for food is even worse. Sea food is evil .
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JOHN HARGROVE has 14 years' experience as a killer whale trainer. His experience spans both SeaWorld of California and SeaWorld of Texas where he was promoted to the highest ranking Senior Trainer. John also has an international reputation, having been a Supervisor with MarineLand in the south of France. He resigned his position with SeaWorld in August 2012 and currently resides in New York City.
“Captivity is always captivity, no matter how gentle the jailer.” 32 likes
“After all, SeaWorld didn’t become a $2.5 billion company because of sequins and choreography. It was built on the backs of captive killer whales.” 7 likes
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