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Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean's Greatest Predator

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published June 1st 2018 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published May 1st 2018)
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Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Orca: How We Came To Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator is an incredible book. It seemingly borders the divide between research tome and story, drawing upon well-written narrative to convey a thorough recall of the history of the interactions between humans and orca.

Like many, I have watched the documentary Blackfish. Like many others, I have been long enthralled with the awesome power and grace of the Orcinus Orca, starting from my childhood love of whales and dolphins. I have seen st
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book in a GR Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

I like the tone of this book. It tells the history of Orcas in the Pacific Northwest and the story of their captivity. It's very detailed and dry or disinteresting. It's well written and organized.
The story of the Orcas is fascinating. The first chapters cover some history of the Pacific Northwest in conjunction with whaling, Orca mythology, resident beliefs about Orcas. It then moves into the first captures and continues thr
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: captive-zoology
A very detail-oriented and insightful book into the people involved in changing the way society views and cares about orca. It is a bit dry at times.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
A dry accounting of how capturing wild orcas led to the eventual protection of the species. The unspeakable actions of humans towards orcas are just that. Humans are disgusting.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A balanced and well-reasoned look at the practice of "harvesting" Orca for aquariums and water parks. It is so easy to get caught up in the "either/or" viewpoint in ANY argument, and Colby does a good job of covering both sides. We truly would NOT have the understanding of killer whales, or the love for them, had they not first been a commercial commodity. On the flip side - at some point, as we DO recognize that these creatures are more than we've believed, we have a duty to find other ways to ...more
The Inquisitive Biologist
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Meticulously researched, this nuanced book reveals the troubled history that shaped our love of orcas and other marine mammals. See my full review at ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely phenomenal telling of the history of man's relationship with killer whales! Despite the heavy focus on the emotionally-charged captive industry, this book does an excellent job of "walking the line". It tells the good and the bad, and weighs them out without passing any final judgment on the industry as a whole, leaving that up to the reader. The book covers an extensive history in just the right amount of detail. As someone with a whole shelf full of books on killer whales, this o ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
The premise of this depressing book is that many orcas have been martyred, yes, but the presence of these short-lived, miserable money-magnets at Sea World caused us all to know and love them. And this love changed the hearts and minds of the public who used to fear them and the fishermen who used to shoot orcas (because they were eating up salmon). The fishermen had an epiphany: orcas are worth big bucks, if you can catch one, or big bucks if you take tourists out in a boat to watch orcas froli ...more
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you have ever watched the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" (I've watched it several times) or just want to know how the fascination with Killer Whales in captivity all got started, I recommend this book. No matter what side you are on in the on-going Captivity Debate, you will find this book to be very informative and interesting. From the early days of whaling, to military target-practice and shooting this majestic mammals for sport, to the first accidental capture, the gentle-giant Orcinus Orca ...more
Allison Waters
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My interest in Orcas was sparked the day I saw the Ad for Free Willy on the babysitters television shortly after my 7th birthday. I was immediately fasciated and in love with this beautiful creature and that love and fascination still lives on. An interest I was shamed for often as a child has becoming increasingly common over the decades. I can go to San Juan Island and explore the Salish Sea and answer questions about animals for other visitors instead of being shamed for my knowledge and pass ...more
Julie DePaulo
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The negative reviews for this book seem to be mainly because people didn't like the subject matter of the book rather than the book itself. Just a reminder, the author isn't the one who was out capturing whales, he just compiled the history of orca capture.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a great deal about the history of orca capture and how public perception of the animal changed drastically in the span of just twenty years. I like that the author portrays both sides of the capture argum
Serena Mccoard
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think this is a story that everyone needs to hear. Heartbreaking and thrilling all at the same time. I recommend this to anyone looking to further their knowledge of this fantastic species. But I give a warning, this book does not sugar coat the treatment of this species and the devastation that has been done to them. Once again, Orcinus orca has become a hot topic in many circles of conversation and this book provides a much needed background to everything that has happened between man and Or ...more
John Geary
Jun 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This is another one of those books that probably deserves better than three stars – but for me, not quite four. It was well written, well researched, covered a lot of material. A very complex and informative book…
So why just three stars?
It just didn’t really grab me - and that’s not a reflection of the author or the book contents so much as it is my interest in the subject matter.
It details the history of the relationship between orcas and people and how it evolved from the days when they wer
Emily Lynne
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review. This was such an eye-opening, moving account of the orca whale industry over the past decades, and Colby did an incredible job of animating the creatures in his book - I was brought to tears by multiple accounts and found myself Googling orca whales.

My only (minor) complaint is that I found that many characters hard to keep straight at some point, although I realize it is a non-fiction accoun
Gene Helfman
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I purchased this book from the author after attending one of his excellent presentations. I'd read many of the natural history books about orcas and Jason Colby's is by far the best. It's accurate, informative, personal yet objective, gives a thorough and enthralling account of the history of orca-human interactions. Colby makes a convincing argument about why the initial, "ambassador" captive orcas were instrumental in our coming to appreciate how complex and intelligent these fascinating anima ...more
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
i have to say that however well written & interesting this book was, i do disagree with the underlying premise that the PNW's love of orcas is a result of the capture programs in previous eras. there are many beloved charasmatic megafauna that have not been hunted and displayed in the same way. the capture/killing of so many of the southern resident orcas basically led to the genetic bottleneck that the species in is now, which means they are almost certainly going to go extinct. ...more
Leah K
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, audio
This book goes over the history of the Orca, most prominently its interaction with humans. It goes over captivity (and even has a rare interview by the first to start capturing them live an their reasoning), research, perceptions (and how they've changed). It was quite fascinating and well researched.
Allyson Strable
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was very insightful on how wildlife cannot survive in the world of captivity. It’s a tearjerker at times, and at others it can’t help but make you smile. Overall a really good read! I’d read it over and over.
Sam Zito
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love Orcas. I really liked this book. I was hoping for more details, sort of like "Blackfish," but this was much more about Orcas in the wild and humans' first encounters. Very interesting, although at times, slow and repetitive.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Comprehensive, covering multiple aspects of the natural history without villainizing or idolizing characters in the orca story, just keeping them human.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mitchell Colgan
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very informative.
Josh Reid
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
Beautifully written -- impressive oral history work
Niamh Ryan
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. Incredibly dry and drawn out. There are far superior books out there detailing the same stories and issues.
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Orca is a rich, haunting history of the relationships between humans, culture, politics, greed, and orcas. I highly recommend to anyone interested in marine animals and animal captivity.
Nicholas Vela
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting book that is part memoir, part cultural history, and part environmental history. Highly recommended.
Miriam Blair
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
Totally awesome. I learnt so much. Beautifully written too, although he does hammer his point in a little too hard. I'll be chanting "We would never have known and loved orcas as we do now if it weren't for captivity" in my sleep for the next few months. I mean to be fair it's a good point. And it doesn't impede the fascinating flow of information so it's fine. Worth it!
Barry Swanson
rated it it was amazing
Apr 22, 2019
rated it really liked it
Sep 17, 2018
rated it liked it
Feb 01, 2019
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