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The Grandest of Lives

Eye to Eye with Whales

List Price: $14.95

March 11, 2008 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 288 Pages | ISBN 9781578051472
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"Observing five species across the world — even swimming among them — Chadwick tallies up fact after fact in a breezy and straightforward style." —New York Times Book Review

The largest creatures ever to inhabit the Earth, whales have long inspired awe in human beings. Because they spend almost 95 percent of their time beneath the ocean surface, however, little has been known about their lives — until recently. With advances in technology and more intense study, fresh facts are coming to light about these magnificent mammals. To be a whale watcher now, says acclaimed author and wildlife biologist Douglas Chadwick, is to have a front-row seat to stunning discoveries.

Chadwick has followed and reported on whales for more than a decade, and in The Grandest of Lives he offers a fascinating insider’s view of modern-day scientific whale observation — from gathering data to weathering storms to spirited scientific debate. In detailed portraits of five species that represent a cross section of the forms and behaviors of cetaceans worldwide — the humpback, northern bottlenose, blue whale, minke whale, and orca — Chadwick moves deftly from natural history to more personal observations, vividly communicating his fondness and admiration for these mammoth masters of the sea, as well as the sheer joy of being among them.

DOUGLAS H. CHADWICK is a wildlife biologist and the author of eight books on natural history, including three previous titles for Sierra Club Books: the acclaimed The Fate of the Elephant, named by the New York Times Book Review as a Best Book of the Year; True Grizz; and A Beast the Color of Winter: The Mountain Goat Observed. He has also written more than three hundred articles for such magazines as National Geographic, Audubon, and Sierra.


“The author’s enthusiasm for these extraordinary creatures effectively draws the reader into the whales’ underwater environment and makes a powerful case for increased efforts to preserve that environment.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Observing five species across the world — even swimming among them — Chadwick tallies up fact after fact in a breezy and straightforward style.” —New York Times Book Review

“What Chadwick offers us now is a set of vividly written, but scientifically valid, accounts of personal encounters with five species of cetacean… The result is an increasingly impressive body of observations comparable in their significance with the pioneering work of Jane van Lawick Goodall on the daily lives of chimpanzees.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Over the years I have read perhaps 50 popular book accounts of whales by naturalists, adventurers, new-age thinkers, poets, or fellow researchers. This is the best of them.” —Quarterly Review of Biology

“Reading The Grandest of Lives is like traveling with someone who has the back-door key to the house of whales. Drop in unexpectedly and let Doug Chadwick introduce you to Leviathan. Get a feel for the most unusual neighborhood on the planet. And if you think whales are already familiar, you might have second thoughts after you learn how they can vocalize louder than a jet despite having no vocal cords, or why scientists are still trying to figure out what killer whales are.” —Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Voyage of the Turtle

“Ever since reading Douglas Chadwick’s wonderful A Beast the Color of Winter I’ve hoped he would give the great whales similar time and insight. His new The Grandest of Lives does just that. He captures the latest that we know about the lives of these majestic animals and gives the reader a unique and accurate insight on what it takes scientists to learn about them. The book is accurate, informative, and enjoyable. Highly recommended!” —Mason Weinrich, Executive Director of The Whale Center of New England, and Vice President of American Cetacean Society

“A feast of whale lore and anecdotes, in prose that reads like poetry. And with a strong message for conservation. This one is not to be missed.” —William Perrin, Senior Scientist for Marine Mammals, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

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