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Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  519 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
In Listening to Whales, Alexandra Morton shares spellbinding stories about her career in whale and dolphin research and what she has learned from and about these magnificent mammals. In the late 1970s, while working at Marineland in California, Alexandra pioneered the recording of orca sounds by dropping a hydrophone into the tank of two killer whales. She recorded the var ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published 2002)
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Caroline
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: animals
This is the autobiography of a woman researching killer whales. I am not a great fan of biographies, and didn't enjoy reading about her childhood.....it got more interesting once she got into whales, and I found the romance of her life on the coast of British Columbia attractive. She relished her life on the edge of the ocean, and her enthusiasm is catching. Most of all I was interested to learn about the whales, and her final chapters on salmon farming were fascinating too, if rather repulsive. ...more
Angela
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It's basically the life story of Alexandra Morton, how she came to be a killer whale (orca) researcher, the difficult life of living in the wild on the British Columbia coast, and the environmental concerns as fish farms and forestry services began to invade the area.
Really this book is so much more than just about whale research.
Reading this inspired me in a different kind of way than when reading Jane Goodall's books because different environmental nightmares are brought t
...more
Gustine
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and must-know history, science, and environmental issues, but with a focus on animals.

It is also, incidentally, an engrossing memoir with such a shocking event in the author’s life that I had to stop reading to absorb it.

Chapters 19 and 20, in particular, are MUST-READS. Everybody in this country, without exception, should carefully read and ponder these two chapters--they contain crucial information about salmon that everybody must be made aware of as soon as possible.
Sarah
Okay. Whales might be the neatest thing on the face of the earth. And I might have to abandon my life to go watch them play in Blackfish Sound or Echo Bay or wherever they may wander…

The books that led me to orcas were all about SeaWorld and the inhumanity of captivity. Listening to Whales supports the anti-captivity argument by showing us what orca lives should look like; who orcas are without trainers and tanks and years of mindless, psychosis-inducing imprisonment.

My first and only sufficie
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Edwina Harvey
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in communication in whales or dolphins.
Recommended to Edwina by: found it in SMSA library. Read it and have now purchased a copy.
Listening to Whales: what the Orcas have taught us by Alexandra Morton, Ballantine Books 2002

I picked this book up because I’m a bit of a dolphin and whale geek, and because I’d seen the documentary, Black Fish, a few months previously and wanted to learn more about Orcas, but reading this book was like opening a treasure chest full of surprises.

Morton’s writing style is warm and friendly and easy to understand. She weaves her life story seamlessly into the text, more so because her life’s work
...more
Kogiopsis
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone- especially those who are interested in marine biology.
Recommended to Kogiopsis by: Mom
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
Currently re-reading this book, partly because, well, I want to, and partly because I have an English project and it has to be on something nonfiction.
I remember why I love this memoir. It's scientific nonfiction written with a novelist's flair. Morton has talent. 'Course, her descriptions of incredibly difficult fieldwork make me wonder if I'll ever be up to doing the same kind of research- because marine mammal communication is what I want to study- but at the same time, her obvious reverence
...more
Tehniyat Khan
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book as something to fill my time, a book I could read a bit to go to sleep quickly. But Alexandra Morton's adventures and experiences with the whales ended up keeping me up half the night trying to finish the book! Even though it starts off as a biography, I was quickly swept into the world of underwater animals: dolphins, porpoises, whales, salmon, seals! The sights and sounds that she describe are thrilling, and in entering her world, we're confronted with questions abo ...more
Michelle Webster
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cetaceans
This is a beautiful book full of ups and downs and moments that are chilling at times and magnificent at other times or both. Alexandra Morton's memior is unique and revealing of the earlier days of both captivity of orcas and dolphins, notably Orky & Corky, and of the early days in orca research. Then came salmon farms and everything changed. If you follow Alexandra Morton beyond the pages of this book you will find her as a salmon warrior lobbying the Canadian government against salmon far ...more
Michelle
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book!!! Orcas are fascinating animals and can really teach us a thing or two. Such an inspiring and terrifying tale, the Orcas are resilient but we are truly doing our best to kill them.

The last few chapters should be required reading for everyone on the planet! The harm that salmon farms are doing is disturbing! I have sworn off farm raised salmon for quite awhile now, but after this I can GUARANTEE I will never eat it again. It is diseased and disgusting and destroying the natural pop
...more
John
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent!! A thoughtful account with a good mixture of heart and humility that makes for a fascinating story. The author introduces the reader to an unfamiliar species in an unfamiliar environment that has evolved to a place at the top of world's oceans. Highly recommended.

My only gibe is that Morton refers to "Gulls" - of which there are many species - as "Seagulls" of which there are None!! Could it be like me referring to her orcas as fish?? I guess that's just the Birder in me.









Nicole
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Alexandra Morton does an excellent job relaying the knowledge she has gained on orca's through the telling of her life's story. This book is an easy read and continues to reveal knew information through out the whole book instead of pounding in the same information and stories over and over. I higly recommend this book to any whale lover, and anyone looking for information on the effects of salmon farming in Canadian waters.
Jane
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"Listening to Whales" is a carefully observed, delightful, and heartbreaking work of research, science essays, and memoir braided into one. As a whale nut, this book introduced me to a deeper level of cetacean education (classification and observational methods, behavior & communication, relationships between & within a variety of species, and a history of research findings and individuals).

Morton also shares a shocking-- albeit emotionally restrained-- insight into the intelligence and
...more
Mattie
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Utterly fascinating. Listening to Whales is part personal memoir of a life far removed from what most of us will ever experience, part natural history of the areas around British Columbia, and part disquisition on the relationship between human beings and the ecosystems with which we share the planet. All of these various stories are vastly interesting in their own right. But most of all, this is the story of cetaceans - especially the orcas. And this story is amazing.

In 1995 I had the opportuni
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Jami
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ms Morton, I envy you. You have the life I have dreamed of my entire life. There's nothing I'd rather do than to learn everything I can from whales. And she learned so much in the years she has spent with them. From her time spent researching dolphins and killer whales in captivity to her revelatory work done in the waters around Vancouver Island, Morton weaves a story of science with her life story. Well written, personal, and poignant. I loved every minute of my time with this book. As I was r ...more
Angela
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A good portion of the joy in reading this book, was in recognising many of the locations Morton researched from. It was wonderful to see my Vancouver Island (and surrounding islands) through her eyes.

Morton's voice is engaging and honest, and her lifetime of listening is very well laid out and easy to follow. I loved how she intertwined personal hurdles with the research, it made the memoir almost feel like it was written in real-time. I cannot really describe the reasons for enjoying this book
...more
Kristi
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
i read this on a rubbing beach at the Johnstone Straight, BC, while taking a break from kaying with orcas. We had a hydrophone with us and could hear the ecolocation clicks...stunning. Reading this book and studying them up close proves how intelligent and social these mammals are, and how misunderstood. Awesome book to learn about Orcas with photos identifying the resident Orca families that migrate to the Johnstone Straight every summer.
Kim. E.
"I do have hope. Nature is enormously resilient. Humans are vastly intelligent, the energy and enthusiasm that can be kindled among young people seems without limit, and the human spirit is indomitable. But if we want life, we will have to stop depending on someone else to save the world. It is up to us - you and me, all of us. Myself, I have placed my faith in the children."
- Jane Goodall to Alexandra Morton at a conference when Morton asked her if there was any hope for these animals


I'm an ani
...more
Alan Dean
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author's story of her journey from dolphin research to orca and salmon conservation on the pristine BC coast; a place now fighting for the survival of wild salmon and to prevent an incursion of oil pipelines and supertankers. A book that paints a vivid picture of a coastal wilderness which could inspire anyone to seek new ways to link with nature.
Shannon
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this six years ago and I loved it then. It is a fascinating, attention grabbing, well written book filled with facts that have emotion behind them. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a love for marine mammals, specifically Killer Whales.
Santosh Manjhi
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a book and what a determined lady!!!
Timothy Schneider
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book multiple times - and just finished rereading it. It is compelling and wondrous and heartbreaking. More to come...
Lauren
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A truely beautiful read!
Katherine Pena
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am obsessed with Orcas so I loved this book, very informative...
Katie
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites
Brings me back to my adolescence and my love of marine biology. This is what I based my dreams on.
Nikki
Listening to Whales is insightful account of orcas along the coast of British Columbia, along with some of Morton's personal experiences. Morton also includes information on dolphins and salmon, amongst some other species. Overall I enjoyed Listening to Whales, but at times I felt it needed a better editor and a tighter focus on orcas.

The personal stories and some of the specific details of orca life were new to me but not the evils of SeaWorld and other places like it. Nor was the tragedy that
...more
Amanda
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, orca-books
Wow. This book is absolutely amazing. If you enjoy reading about Orcas at all, then this book is for you. Morton has an excellent sense of style in her writing that makes it easy to read and easy to connect with the struggles she faces in trying to preserve the very land and ecosystem she loves. The more non-fiction I read, the most horrified I am at the terrible things we've allowed to happen to the only place we have to live. We may be the so-called dominant species on the planet, but man, we ...more
Rebecca
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing

An inspiring balance between narrative and science. I learned a few things and was also incredibly taken by Alex’s story. Loved it, and highly recommend it if you at all hear the whales calling!
Kristen
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Fascinating memoir of a remarkable life, the beauty of nature, and the power of curiosity. Particularly enjoyed the middle part about the orcas.
Nora
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-old
Man is the worst predator of all
Todd Wilhelm
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very good autobiography about Alexandra Morton, a woman who has spent most of her adult life studying orcas in the seas off the west coast of Canada.

""If Daddy's dead," he said, "how are they going to fix him?"His face completely expected good news. I could not give it to him. "They can't, Jarret. They can't.""

"I knew why mourners through the centuries had worn garments of anguish, rubbed ashes over their bodies, cut their hair. You want to tell the world, I am beyond happiness. It's both a wa
...more
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“we, as a species, now stand at a crossroads. We can face the possibility of our own extinction and work to avert it, or we can follow the more traditional path of earth’s organisms and fall blindly over the edge. If there’s one trait that characterizes human beings, it’s the will to survive. This, I believe, will motivate us to work with the natural world rather than oppose it, which is all we need to do to give the children of earth—of all species—the opportunity to thrive.” 0 likes
“The whales always fell silent when the throbbing hum of humanity grew overwhelming. Whenever a ship of any size came near, I had to take off the headset to protect my ears. I wondered if a species that had taken millennia to evolve such a delicate and sophisticated sense of hearing could adapt to humanity’s sonic onslaught. My notes from the time bear witness to the effect on my own primitive ears: “I have been listening to boats all day; my head is throbbing; the silence of my canvas tent feels good tonight—poor whales.” That” 0 likes
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