Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us

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For the past twenty-five years, Alexandra Morton has been at the forefront of whale and dolphin research, dedicating her life to the study of orcas (also known as killer whales). Now in Listening to Whales, Morton shares the spellbinding story of her career, her adventures in the wilderness, the heartbreak she has endured, and the rewards of living her life on her own terms.

Born into an artistic family in Connecticut, Morton experienced a seismic jolt when at age twelve she first read the work of primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and knew she wanted to study wild animals. Soon afterward, listening for the first time to orcas communicating with each other, she knew she had found her life work. In the late 1970s, while working at California’s Marineland, Alexandra pioneered the recording of whale sounds by dropping a hydrophone into the tank of two killer whales. She recorded the varied language of mating, childbirth, and even grief after the birth of a stillborn calf. At the same time she made the startling observation that the whales were inventing and perfecting wonderful synchronized movements, a behavior that was soon recognized as a defining characteristic of orca society.

In 19784, Alexandra moved with her husband, photographer Robin Morton, to a remote bay in British Columbia to continue her research with wild orcas. For a few idyllic years, Alexandra and Robin shared their passion for whales, cruising the green northern waters and raising a baby boy. But tragedy struck when Robin died in a terrible accident. Only the love of her son and her abiding dedication to whale research gave Alexandra the strength to continue her groundbreaking work. Her recordings of the whales that swim by her house have led her to a deeper understanding of the mystery of whale echolocation, the vocal communication that enables the mammals to find their way in the dark sea. She continues to be among the renowned researchers attempting to break down the barriers of interspecies communication.

At once an inspiring story of a woman’s determination to live her life on her own terms and a fascinating study of the profound communion between humans and whales, this book will open your eyes anew to the wonders of the natural world.

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User Review  - bkinetic - LibraryThing

Marine mammals captivated the author during her youth. With pluck and intelligence she created opportunities to study dolphins and whales without any significant institutional funding. What emerges is ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - GalenWiley - LibraryThing

For the past twenty-five years, Alexandra Morton has been at the forefront of whale and dolphin research, dedicating her life to the study of orcas (also known as killer whales). Now in Listening to ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
4
Section 3
6
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About the author (2002)

Born and raised in Connecticut, Alexandra Morton began her career in marine mammal research in 1976, when she moved to California to work for noted dolphin researcher, Dr. John C. Lilly. Since 1984 she has lived on the isolated central British Columbia coast, where she studies and records the language and habits of the various pods of orcas that swim the waters there.

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