Hot Best Seller

Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures

Availability: Ready to download

The Smithsonian's star paleontologist takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam ent The Smithsonian's star paleontologist takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam entire ocean basins. Whales fill us with terror, awe, and affection--yet we know hardly anything about them, and they only enter our awareness when they die, struck by a ship or stranded in the surf. Why did it take whales over 50 million years to evolve to such big sizes, and how do they eat enough to stay that big? How did their ancestors return from land to the sea? Why do they beach themselves? What do their lives tell us about our oceans, and evolution as a whole? Importantly, in the sweepstakes of human-driven habitat and climate change, will whales survive? Nick Pyenson's research has given us the answers to some of our biggest questions about whales. Nick's rich storytelling takes us to the cool halls deep inside the Smithsonian's priceless fossil collection, to the frigid fishing decks on Antarctic whaling stations, and to the blazing hot desert of Chile where scientists race against time to document the largest fossil whalebone site on earth. Spying on Whales is science writing at its best: an author who is an incredible, passionate writer, at the forefront of his field, on a topic that invokes deep fascination.


Compare

The Smithsonian's star paleontologist takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam ent The Smithsonian's star paleontologist takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam entire ocean basins. Whales fill us with terror, awe, and affection--yet we know hardly anything about them, and they only enter our awareness when they die, struck by a ship or stranded in the surf. Why did it take whales over 50 million years to evolve to such big sizes, and how do they eat enough to stay that big? How did their ancestors return from land to the sea? Why do they beach themselves? What do their lives tell us about our oceans, and evolution as a whole? Importantly, in the sweepstakes of human-driven habitat and climate change, will whales survive? Nick Pyenson's research has given us the answers to some of our biggest questions about whales. Nick's rich storytelling takes us to the cool halls deep inside the Smithsonian's priceless fossil collection, to the frigid fishing decks on Antarctic whaling stations, and to the blazing hot desert of Chile where scientists race against time to document the largest fossil whalebone site on earth. Spying on Whales is science writing at its best: an author who is an incredible, passionate writer, at the forefront of his field, on a topic that invokes deep fascination.

30 review for Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures

  1. 5 out of 5

    Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    Spying on Whales is a beautifully written introduction to the immersive world of whales. From their ancestry to their future, the beauty and evolution of these magnificent creatures as well as their adaptability, influence and importance to their and other ecosystems is explored in easy terms anyone can understand. This is the endeavor of Nick Pyenson, a paleontologist and curator at the Smithsonian Institute, who shares his passion for whales and the history their bones tell us. He himself cons Spying on Whales is a beautifully written introduction to the immersive world of whales. From their ancestry to their future, the beauty and evolution of these magnificent creatures as well as their adaptability, influence and importance to their and other ecosystems is explored in easy terms anyone can understand. This is the endeavor of Nick Pyenson, a paleontologist and curator at the Smithsonian Institute, who shares his passion for whales and the history their bones tell us. He himself considers paleontologists tour guides, since they are used to asking questions without having all the facts. Fossils studied are often removed from context, and therefore only give clues to draw inferences from. In this book, Pyenson presents a selective account of chasing whales, both living and extinct. Otherwise you would find yourself reading an encyclopedia for each whale species. He describes his experiences: ”…from Antarctica to the deserts of Chile, to the tropical coastlines of Panama, to the waters of Iceland and Alaska, using a wide variety of devices and tools to study whales: suction-cupped tags that cling to their backs; knives to dissect skin and blubber from muscles and nerves; and hammers to scrape and whack away rock that obscures gleaming, fossilized bone.” – Nick Pyenson Check out the Peyenson Lab: http://nmnh.typepad.com/pyenson_lab/ Spying on Whales is divided into parts: Part I tells us about the PAST. A chronicle of whale history from mammals walking on land to their transition to aquatic animals. This is the part scientists rely mostly on fossil records. It therefore explains how paleontologists look for clues and what questions they have to ask themselves to uncover the details presented. This information borderlines with other sciences and tells us about whales in geological time. Pyenson specifically spends a greater part of detail on the discovery and his works at Cerro Ballena, the world’s richest fossil whale graveyard. Here is the link for Cerro Ballena: http://cerroballena.si.edu/images Part II tells about the PRESENT. How did whales become the biggest creatures ever in the history of life? What are the challenges of sustaining such enormous sizes? Here is where we learn about biological processes of whales and Pyenson’s work at a whaling station. What are the challenges of studying organisms of such size? What are his newest discoveries?   Part III explores the (uncertain) FUTURE of whales. It informs of population rates, climate change, new habitats, other species affected, changes in the oceans and new unusual whale sightings. We have all heard, read and seen the tragedies unfold by the hands of humans affecting whales and their co-inhabitants of our oceans. Therefore, I want to assure those that have asked me if it is a depressing book to read, that there are no horrific pictures or scenes depicted in this book. Part III acknowledges this, but does not harbor on these. Rather it explains scientific works needed, the news of other scientific findings and the collective deduction that perhaps gives hope to further investigations.   “My hope is that this book says as much about the inner lives of scientists as it does about whales.”   – Nick Pyenson I was fortunate to have two copies of this book available to me. One was the audio book version and the other a copy from the library. The narrator on the audio book was Nick Pyenson himself. That is always a plus. To hear the author express his writings in his own voice made it conversationally easy to understand and added emphasis on what was most important to him scientifically as well as distinctively convey his message to the reader. As I was finishing up my listening and began to dig into some of the author’s research, I became aware that there are drawings in the book that I did not want to miss. Lucky for me I was able to get a copy of the book at the library. There are many interesting facts that come into play in Spying on Whales. More then I can list here. Upon reading this book and discussing it with others, I was confirmed that whale bones in particular are a great example to study evolutionary history on. Pyenson presents this with clear examples, his love and experience for paleontology and the changes that have occurred over time. Not only in whales, but in mammals and other aquatic animals. From bone structures (skulls, hips, tails, fins) to senses like eyesight, hearing and blow holes and to communication, order of species and socialization.   The fact is, the oceans are like the frontier that still offers plenty of room for discovery. My take-away from this book is that there are passionate people around the world working tirelessly in their respective fields. It is not only a race against time, but a journey to understanding more of the past that tells the story to our now. I am not a scientist, for certain. I merely have a general interest or thirst for knowledge. This book presents a glimpse into the life of whales and the study of paleontology and it quenches this desire for a little while, till I discover another topic and book to delve into. It certainly suits as an introduction for curious students perhaps to pursue the sciences, research, fieldwork if not at least create compassion for living things. I certainly would recommend it as such. My awe for whales has only been fueled thanks to the things I learned and did not know before this book. I would love for everyone to read it as it reads effortless and interestingly. It is books like this one that lead to more searches online, create more engagement by its audience, instill awareness, hence spread knowledge in the general populous. Give it a try. TODAY :) More sites listed here: https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/new-...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    I've always had a fascination with whales, dolphins and other mammals that live in the sea. I think maybe it's because they are so like us, and yet so different at the same time. When I saw this book written by a Smithsonian paleontologist, I knew I had to read all about the past, present and future of whales. I'm glad I did -- this book is fascinating! Nick Pyenson shares so many facts about whales...species that still swim in our oceans and ones that are long gone. He discusses the ancestors of I've always had a fascination with whales, dolphins and other mammals that live in the sea. I think maybe it's because they are so like us, and yet so different at the same time. When I saw this book written by a Smithsonian paleontologist, I knew I had to read all about the past, present and future of whales. I'm glad I did -- this book is fascinating! Nick Pyenson shares so many facts about whales...species that still swim in our oceans and ones that are long gone. He discusses the ancestors of the whales we know today, the life of whales now and what the future might be for some of the largest creatures on the planet. There is still so much about whales that we don't know because they spend most of their time in deep ocean where even modern humans have a hard time following. I found it fascinating that Pyenson shared the fact that some whales can live more than 200 years...so there are some still swimming that saw wooden ships with sails skimming across the ocean. It made me wonder with awe what experiences the oldest whale in the world might have had over its long life. There is a lot of information and facts shared in this book, and at times Pyenson does get a bit academic. I read this book in small pieces, not in large chunks. The information is interesting and fascinating. But at times, the author let his ego show a bit. I don't fault highly educated people for this at all....they have a lot of knowledge and experiences that I don't. For me, small doses is best with information dense nonfiction like this book. Every night I would read a chapter or two while the HD television across the room showed an ocean documentary for ambiance. It just so happened that I was reading this book while Shark Week was on Discovery Channel....so it worked out perfectly. Sharks aren't whales of course...but the lovely ocean scenes made a perfect background for my enjoyment of this book. Lovely book! A nice blend of Pyenson's personal experiences and facts, history and information about whales themselves. He presents the information in an interesting way. Pyenson actually gives tours at the Smithsonian. After reading his book, I imagine he is an awesome guide! Great read! **I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Penguin/Viking via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary Carrasco

    When I think about whales, I get excited. What amazing, majestic HUGE creatures! They hold a very symbolic meaning for me and so I couldn't wait to get this book. The book itself is still fascinating but exciting? Not so much. Written by a scientist, it reads a bit like a science book. Nick Pyenson was extremely thorough in laying out the evolution of whales. I'm sorry to say it wasn't enough to keep my attention for long periods of time. I'm still in absolute awe of whales. I mean, look at that When I think about whales, I get excited. What amazing, majestic HUGE creatures! They hold a very symbolic meaning for me and so I couldn't wait to get this book. The book itself is still fascinating but exciting? Not so much. Written by a scientist, it reads a bit like a science book. Nick Pyenson was extremely thorough in laying out the evolution of whales. I'm sorry to say it wasn't enough to keep my attention for long periods of time. I'm still in absolute awe of whales. I mean, look at that book cover, wow! 2.5 stars rounded up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    4 stars - It was great. I loved it. Did you know that whales used to walk on land before returning to the water? Oh the rabbit holes this book led me down….googled until my googler was sore. Easy to read (not dry at all) with fascinating tidbits. I love that the author makes you aware of what has been done by humans, along with what might happen due to humans (pros and cons), without being preachy or condescending. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: We sent whalesong into 4 stars - It was great. I loved it. Did you know that whales used to walk on land before returning to the water? Oh the rabbit holes this book led me down….googled until my googler was sore. Easy to read (not dry at all) with fascinating tidbits. I love that the author makes you aware of what has been done by humans, along with what might happen due to humans (pros and cons), without being preachy or condescending. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: We sent whalesong into interstellar space because the creatures that sing these songs are superlative beings that fill us with awe, terror, and affection. We have hunted them for thousands of years and scratched them into our mythologies and iconography. Their bones frame the archways of medieval castles. They’re so compelling that we imagine aliens might find them interesting — or perhaps understand their otherworldly, ethereal song. First Sentence: At this very moment, two spacecraft move at over thirty-four thousand miles per hour, about ten billion miles away from us, each carrying a gold-plated copper record.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Nolan

    I think having read "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" right before reading this really soured this one for me - there was more paleontology in this book than there was in the dino book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    SPYING ON WHALES: Teaching the Heart of Science http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201... The author and whale paleobiologist provides a fascinating look at the when and what of his work. I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted. At the heart of this book is the young man, the boy, whose curiosity led him to become a paleobiologist. Dr. Pyenson tells the story of whales with a childlike enth SPYING ON WHALES: Teaching the Heart of Science http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201... The author and whale paleobiologist provides a fascinating look at the when and what of his work. I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted. At the heart of this book is the young man, the boy, whose curiosity led him to become a paleobiologist. Dr. Pyenson tells the story of whales with a childlike enthusiasm that sees the best in colleagues, endures the tough physical challenges as well as the rigorous academics involved in his position, and what seems like an endless amount of passion for passing knowledge and understanding on to people of all scientific abilities, including me. Despite its math and methods science is still a human endeavor, and it requires heart and passion to reach us. Pyenson offers facts and information but more importantly his writing and narration are relatable and his personality is friendly. He tells a story. I saw my first whale while I was listening to the book, off the Massachusetts beach where we spend a lot of time. Although it wasn’t bigger than a bus, it was as large as many of the fishing boats in the water. It was certainly the biggest animal I had ever seen in the water. We saw whales several times this past week including a breaching. I know more about the whale species than I did before I read the book, but, be advised that like many natural science books it can be hard to understand certain words. One term I found I had completely misunderstood as “Roark Whale” is really “Rorqual Whale.” But it also seems likely that the whale, or whales we saw were humpback or minke whales. I also found the colorful descriptions of how whale research is done fascinating: deserts, freezing seas, rocky roads, cliffs under tides all but once a year. It is often dangerous, most assuredly uncomfortable and dirty work. As a paleobiologist it is curious how important Pyenson’s work is to understanding how this species fares today: how it was and is affected by hunting, pollution and climate change. He offers facts, theory Pyenson, is brilliant, and he has a pleasant voice for delivering his words in audio format. His ability to personalize his work, tells the story of the whale and the story of science.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Rottier

    Won this book in a Goodreads giveaway from Viking books. This is a relatively quick, easy read packed with scientific data and anecdotes. Author is a paleontologist and rightfully includes his expertise to help explain the natural history of whales and highlight many of the questions still not 100% understood about these marine giants. I love that the author shows how a scientist works through a problem through what may be taught as the scientific method.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Edward Canade

    I liked it. I like whales and I felt like I learned some about their evolution, habits and and the effects of whaling and climate change on their chances for survival. Nick Pension intentionally wrote in a style any layperson can understand. The author shares his personal experiences in his quest to learn about whales from direct interactions with both living and fossils of Cetaceans. Not only are some whales the largest beings to ever roam the earth, but some also can live to 200 plus years. (N I liked it. I like whales and I felt like I learned some about their evolution, habits and and the effects of whaling and climate change on their chances for survival. Nick Pension intentionally wrote in a style any layperson can understand. The author shares his personal experiences in his quest to learn about whales from direct interactions with both living and fossils of Cetaceans. Not only are some whales the largest beings to ever roam the earth, but some also can live to 200 plus years. (Now don't go telling me about clams or sponges, or mushrooms being bigger or living longer.) So if you are looking for a primer on whales, this might just be a good book to start with.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Fascinating, easy read about these majestic animals. I found the evolutionary history and the author’s guesses as to where the different species of whales may lead to be the most interesting aspects of the book. Worth the read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Awallens

    This book was very dry in places and I found the writing a bit scattered going from one thing to another. I wish it had been a little more linear.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I finished reading “Spying on Whales” by Nick Pyeson. I found it to be an informative book on everything whales. I learned quite a few new things about whales. Beautiful animals!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Keating

    This book is SO good! I have always been interested in whales and paleontologist Nick Pyenson definitely has a deep and abiding love for them that comes through in this book. He divides the book into three sections—past, present, and future—and writes eloquently about whales. Ancient whales that were fossilized, whales whose populations were decimated by whaling, and what the future may bring for whales in a world populated by more and more humans. I think the most fascinating thing I read was ab This book is SO good! I have always been interested in whales and paleontologist Nick Pyenson definitely has a deep and abiding love for them that comes through in this book. He divides the book into three sections—past, present, and future—and writes eloquently about whales. Ancient whales that were fossilized, whales whose populations were decimated by whaling, and what the future may bring for whales in a world populated by more and more humans. I think the most fascinating thing I read was about the lifespan of bowhead whales. Pyenson demonstrates through scientific investigation that these massive creatures can live for over 200 years! They live in the Arctic and were hunted back when whaling was still legal (or rather, practiced a lot more than it is now). This book is not to be missed. If you don't like whales already, you will by the time you finish reading it!!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McGuire

    Since i was little I always was so intrigued about whales. This book lived up to what I was expecting and I learned quite a fee new things.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Allen Adams

    http://www.themaineedge.com/tekk/spyi... Writing about science in a manner that is entertaining and accessible while also conveying the desired information with clarity and concision – not an easy task by any means. Finding the proper balance of wonky jargon and narrative engagement requires a backwards-and-forwards depth of knowledge about the subject matter AND significant storytelling acumen. It’s a shot at harmony while dodging discord. In short, there’s a real art to science writing. Nick Pyen http://www.themaineedge.com/tekk/spyi... Writing about science in a manner that is entertaining and accessible while also conveying the desired information with clarity and concision – not an easy task by any means. Finding the proper balance of wonky jargon and narrative engagement requires a backwards-and-forwards depth of knowledge about the subject matter AND significant storytelling acumen. It’s a shot at harmony while dodging discord. In short, there’s a real art to science writing. Nick Pyenson’s new book “Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures” is a prime example of getting it right. Pyenson is unabashedly wonky for long stretches (though he does come by it honestly - he’s Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian and a noted paleobiologist), but he also allows his personal passion for the work shine through. True passion is infectious, and that’s what he brings to the table – the reader can’t help but be drawn along. The book’s format is precisely what its subtitle tells you it is. “Spying on Whales” comes in three parts, each section an exploration of the past, present or future of the largest creatures on Earth. In Part I, we get a good look at Pyenson’s work with fossils. We pay a visit to an unexpected treasure trove of ancient whale bones discovered in Chile and watch as he’s forced to rely on unconventional solutions to ensure the future educational possibilities of the site. We follow him deep into the nooks and crannies of the Smithsonian, learning about the multitude of whale artifacts therein. We even get a couple of deep dives (pun intended) into how whales have come to be and how they’ve impacted the ecosystems in which they exist over the millennia. With Part II, Pyenson gives us a closer examination of whales as they are today. These whales are true giants of the seas; the biggest of them are arguably the largest creatures to ever exist on this planet. Seriously – the largest recorded blue whale is basically the same size as the largest of the dinosaurs. And so many others are also gigantic, so big as to beg questions with regards to the logistics of their existence. We also spend time with Pyenson at an Icelandic whaling operation where he and his team are able to explore whale biology in ways that hadn’t been done in years if at all. As for Part III, we get a glimpse at some of Pyerson’s thoughts about the future of whales. With the changing nature of the climate, there are some ecological shifts that impact whale life (some positively, others negatively). The population devastation wrought by the relentless overkill of the whaling industry’s peak has some major consequences for species viability going forward as well. The seas were once teeming with whales, but mankind’s interference – filling the seas with noise and trash and carbon dioxide – may ensure that such a day never returns. Full disclosure: were it not for my job, I might well never have picked up “Spying on Whales” in the first place. While I have my affection for science-oriented nonfiction, I can’t say that I’d ever given whales much thought. And there are plenty of other new books out there to review. Yet this is the one I started to read. And I’m truly glad I did. What “Spying on Whales” does so beautifully is convey the seemingly boundless passion of a scientist in a way that is true to his work without sacrificing accessibility. Despite the fact that Pyenson does get a little wonky at times, the book continues to engage. The specifics and minutiae being shared are a delight, but even if they’re a bit too much, their presence never impacts a more general understanding. Anyone who has spent even a little time thinking about it is aware that whales are fascinating creatures, but what books like this one do is shine a light on that fascination. Pyenson loves them and loves learning about them … and wants the reader to love it too. Academic joy is weird and niche, but it’s also pure and entertaining as heck. “Spying on Whales” is prime science writing, a distillation of a subject that is neither condescending nor exclusive. It’s a lovely piece of nonfiction, one that educates and entertains. Lovers of science – especially biology – will adore it, but even absent those interests, a reader possessed of simple natural curiosity might well find themselves diving deep.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    I received an advance reading copy of this book, for free, through Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review. As the curator of fossil marine mammals at Smithsonian, there is no denying that Nick Pyenson is an expert in his field. The research he conducted while writing Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures is meticulously documented in over 40 pages of notes at the end of the book. The first half of Spying on Whales (“The Past”) is I received an advance reading copy of this book, for free, through Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review. As the curator of fossil marine mammals at Smithsonian, there is no denying that Nick Pyenson is an expert in his field. The research he conducted while writing Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures is meticulously documented in over 40 pages of notes at the end of the book. The first half of Spying on Whales (“The Past”) is fantastic! It is both interesting, and informative. I learned many facts I did not know in just the first 25 pages alone. Pyenson, whose background is in paleontology, not only provides these facts, but he explains how scientists came to discover this information. This includes his adventures tagging humpback whales in Antarctica and digging for fossils in Chile. However, as readers enter into second and third sections (“The Present” and “The Future”), there seemed to be a shift away from the majestic creatures and more of the focus was placed on the science of paleontology. There is more digging for fossils, an examination of baleen plates of bowhead whales in the warehouses containing the Smithsonian’s off-site collections, as well as an in-depth description of the dissection of a giant whale heart. I found this section to be very clinical and somewhat dry. To me, the appeal of the book was due to my interest in whales, not necessarily an overwhelming interest in science. As a reader, I guess I prefer the “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where” as opposed to the “why” and “how”. (This also explains why I did not pursue a career in paleontology.) Overall, Spying on Whales started off strong, but fizzled for me midway through. Perhaps, it just wasn’t what I expected it to be. I was anticipating something more along the lines of how Susan Casey explored the world of dolphins in her book, Voices in the Ocean. Pyenson’s narrative was at times too scientific, and simply did not hold my interest throughout.

  16. 3 out of 5

    Danielle

    First, I listened to the audio book and didn't realize that the physical book is full of drawings and diagrams. I think this book would have been easier to follow if those diagrams had been provided to audio book listeners. Second, I had a hard time with the author describing hitching a ride with a whaling fleet out of Reykjavik. He gives many justifications that end with something along the lines of "if they're killing them anyway, at least let science benefit." This is bothersome to me especia First, I listened to the audio book and didn't realize that the physical book is full of drawings and diagrams. I think this book would have been easier to follow if those diagrams had been provided to audio book listeners. Second, I had a hard time with the author describing hitching a ride with a whaling fleet out of Reykjavik. He gives many justifications that end with something along the lines of "if they're killing them anyway, at least let science benefit." This is bothersome to me especially because in what I think is the very next part he discusses the horrible impact of whaling. Pyenson says he is not a "whale hugger," however, I am a "whale hugger," and I think many of the people who will pick up this book are too. I feel like describing benefitting from the culling of whales was an oversight and miscalculation by Pyenson of who (outside of the science community) was going to be reading his book. All of that said, I learned a lot about the animals that I go out to see in Stellwagen Bank 4 or 5 times per year. Though this book does tend towards the science-minded (make no mistake, this book is about the paleontology of whales, written by a paleontologist), it was packed full of information about the past, present, and future of whales that was very interesting to me (not a paleontologist... I'm a special ed math teacher). My favorite thing that I learned had to do with how we live in the age of giants now, a time that I thought we were long past. The part about the right whale with the stone harpoon was pretty incredible as well. Overall, it is an well written book if you know what you are getting into. Blog | Instagram

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Schmidt

    3.5 stars I find whales to be one of the most majestic and mysterious species on our planet. There is so much that we don't know about them, and their culture(s). The fact that I can say 'culture' when talking about whales is fairly unique in itself. There are not many families of organisms on this planet that can claim to have a culture. So, you could say I am a pretty big fan of the subject matter of this book. Onto the book itself. According to the author, this book was based on a series of vig 3.5 stars I find whales to be one of the most majestic and mysterious species on our planet. There is so much that we don't know about them, and their culture(s). The fact that I can say 'culture' when talking about whales is fairly unique in itself. There are not many families of organisms on this planet that can claim to have a culture. So, you could say I am a pretty big fan of the subject matter of this book. Onto the book itself. According to the author, this book was based on a series of vignettes that was later converted into a book. This shows in the writing, as the book jumps around a bit from personal stories about various discoveries the author was involved in, to chapters that focused almost entirely on whales. As such, I found that several sections didn't seem to flow together as well as they might have. The stories that revolved around the author's work were interesting, but I found that they paled to the chapters that solely focused on whales. After finishing the book I was left with both a greater appreciation of whales, but also a drive to find out more about them. Hard to ask for more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    EC2151

    Be aware that the book is mostly interested in facets of whale biology and fossilized whale bones. Vignettes and anecdotes about discovering whale fossils etc. fill out the tract. There is time given to discussing the process of tagging whales, how whales evolved to meet various different environmental challenges, and a final section on how whales can survive (or not) in the modern age. The text is rendered in a readable and approachable format. The narrator, Pyenson, comes off as affable and wil Be aware that the book is mostly interested in facets of whale biology and fossilized whale bones. Vignettes and anecdotes about discovering whale fossils etc. fill out the tract. There is time given to discussing the process of tagging whales, how whales evolved to meet various different environmental challenges, and a final section on how whales can survive (or not) in the modern age. The text is rendered in a readable and approachable format. The narrator, Pyenson, comes off as affable and willing to lead you through the subject despite being outside of anyone's purview (unless the person reading this review is also a student of the evolutionary history of whales). The book is in equal parts in awe of and a clinical examination of whales, and how they have managed to thrive on this planet for so long. Recommended from the perspective of someone with an amateur interest in marine biology.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    One of my first favourite books was The Whale Tale, which featured Kermit the Frog and his nephew Robin saving some whales from evil (pig) whalers. I also did a few projects on whales in elementary school; I've always been a fan of the giant marine mammals. My interest in maritime and nautical history has led me to read a bit about whales especially in the context of whaling, but I'm not at all knowledgeable about their biology. I learned a ton from this book, both about whales' evolution and bi One of my first favourite books was The Whale Tale, which featured Kermit the Frog and his nephew Robin saving some whales from evil (pig) whalers. I also did a few projects on whales in elementary school; I've always been a fan of the giant marine mammals. My interest in maritime and nautical history has led me to read a bit about whales especially in the context of whaling, but I'm not at all knowledgeable about their biology. I learned a ton from this book, both about whales' evolution and biology as well as about paleontology in general. It also made me even more alarmed about climate change than before, but it was still interesting to get a perspective on whale-related consequences of humans' environmental impact. The book is not exhaustive but rather quite accessible, using anecdotes from the author's field work to enter into more detailed explanations of cetacean biology.

  20. 3 out of 5

    James (JD) Dittes

    Pyenson here synthesizes a number of areas of science: evolutionary biology, marine biology, paleontology, and physiology to name a few. And what creature could inspire such a wide-ranging look into Nature's past, present, and future? It would have to be the whale. Pyenson takes the reader along to a road cut in Chile, where we learn about prehistoric whales and geologic changes to the Pacific coast of South America. My favorite chapter found him and a friend at a whaling station in Iceland, where Pyenson here synthesizes a number of areas of science: evolutionary biology, marine biology, paleontology, and physiology to name a few. And what creature could inspire such a wide-ranging look into Nature's past, present, and future? It would have to be the whale. Pyenson takes the reader along to a road cut in Chile, where we learn about prehistoric whales and geologic changes to the Pacific coast of South America. My favorite chapter found him and a friend at a whaling station in Iceland, where their dissections of rendered whales led to understanding of the physics and physiology of how finback whales take in huge gulps of water to capture prey. I don't come to Pyenson from a scientific background, but more from a literary one, having taught Moby Dick for many years. Still, I found his insights fascinating and his passion for cetacians to be contagious.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sheri S.

    Pyenson does a thorough job of exploring the ancient history of whales by going through their evolutionary changes as exemplified by fossil records. I particularly liked learning about the numerous whale bone deposits in Chile and thinking about how those bones ended up at that location. The author also covers the current state of whales and discusses possible reasons for the changes in whale sizes over the years. I found it interesting and sad (though not entirely surprising) to learn that whal Pyenson does a thorough job of exploring the ancient history of whales by going through their evolutionary changes as exemplified by fossil records. I particularly liked learning about the numerous whale bone deposits in Chile and thinking about how those bones ended up at that location. The author also covers the current state of whales and discusses possible reasons for the changes in whale sizes over the years. I found it interesting and sad (though not entirely surprising) to learn that whales that spend more time nearer to the coasts have higher levels of toxins in their bodies. The future of whales will be impacted by rising ocean levels and species that survive will have to (continue to) adapt. They are amazing creatures!

  22. 3 out of 5

    Read Ng

    This was a GoodReads giveaway win. This was a good and educational book of whales. I learned quite a bit about whales, but I have to admit that I never really took the time beforehand to study whales. This book is written in clear and easy to understand terms. At times I thought it was too simplified, but in reflection after reading the entire book, I think the story was well done. From the title, I was half expecting technology had gotten to the point of remote whale drones swimming alongside our This was a GoodReads giveaway win. This was a good and educational book of whales. I learned quite a bit about whales, but I have to admit that I never really took the time beforehand to study whales. This book is written in clear and easy to understand terms. At times I thought it was too simplified, but in reflection after reading the entire book, I think the story was well done. From the title, I was half expecting technology had gotten to the point of remote whale drones swimming alongside our whales with cameras and all those sensors, but that is a bit too far out. I would have liked a page or two of what the particular whales actually look like. But there is always the internet out there to fill in those gaps. This was a GoodReads.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rick Jackofsky

    I saw this book listed as a Goodreads giveaway. I thought it looked interesting and I was pleasantly surprised when I got the email informing me that I was a a Giveaways winner. The copy I received was an "advance uncorrected manuscript", (hopefully the typos, were corrected before it went to press), typos, missing index, missing glossary, and blank (TK) Whale Lineage Diagram aside, I found this to be a very well written and informative essay. The author, obviously very knowledgable in the field I saw this book listed as a Goodreads giveaway. I thought it looked interesting and I was pleasantly surprised when I got the email informing me that I was a a Giveaways winner. The copy I received was an "advance uncorrected manuscript", (hopefully the typos, were corrected before it went to press), typos, missing index, missing glossary, and blank (TK) Whale Lineage Diagram aside, I found this to be a very well written and informative essay. The author, obviously very knowledgable in the field of marine mammals, is also a gifted story teller. He manages to convey a lot of technical information in a way that is easily understood by a layman reader. All in all a fascinating read for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of life on Earth.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Liz

    By coincidence, my husband and I just returned from a trip to Iceland where we went on a whale watching excursion. The ecologist guide went into great detail about the whales we were able to see and supplied us with all sorts of interesting information but that was nothing compared to this book. This is a well-written study that lucidly describes the history, the physiology and, possibly, the future of this awesome creature. In addition, the description of the scientific process involved in this By coincidence, my husband and I just returned from a trip to Iceland where we went on a whale watching excursion. The ecologist guide went into great detail about the whales we were able to see and supplied us with all sorts of interesting information but that was nothing compared to this book. This is a well-written study that lucidly describes the history, the physiology and, possibly, the future of this awesome creature. In addition, the description of the scientific process involved in this discovery work is fascinating by itself. All-in-all, this is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in evolutionary science or a real-life scientific method. I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    I won this book on Goodreads. This is a fantastic book! Sometimes, very knowledgeable people can be boring in lectures and books. NOT SO for Mr. Pyenson! He is obviously an expert in his field, but he explains whales & their behaviors to those of us who have very little scientific background so well that almost anyone can follow along without a dictionary or doing other research. I don't think that most people would know that whales once were land/semi-land creatures before adapting primaril I won this book on Goodreads. This is a fantastic book! Sometimes, very knowledgeable people can be boring in lectures and books. NOT SO for Mr. Pyenson! He is obviously an expert in his field, but he explains whales & their behaviors to those of us who have very little scientific background so well that almost anyone can follow along without a dictionary or doing other research. I don't think that most people would know that whales once were land/semi-land creatures before adapting primarily to the oceans. One type stayed in Asian rivers until recently when dams on the rivers basically hastened their extinction. The book does have extensive notes at the end and an index.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Stewart

    Dr. Nicholas Pyenson’s Spying on Whales (2018; Viking) is remarkably well-written: the book provides insights on these magnificent creatures through a delicate balance between personal experience and Deep Time evolutionary knowledge. By trade and passion a whale paleontologist and naturalist, Dr. Pyenson presents engaging accounts of whale physiology, ecology, behavior, evolution, and potential fate under global climate change. From arctic feeding grounds of bowheads and killer whales, massive w Dr. Nicholas Pyenson’s Spying on Whales (2018; Viking) is remarkably well-written: the book provides insights on these magnificent creatures through a delicate balance between personal experience and Deep Time evolutionary knowledge. By trade and passion a whale paleontologist and naturalist, Dr. Pyenson presents engaging accounts of whale physiology, ecology, behavior, evolution, and potential fate under global climate change. From arctic feeding grounds of bowheads and killer whales, massive whale-kill events in Chile, to fossil freshwater-whales in Panama, this is a ride you’ll definitely enjoy.

  27. 3 out of 5

    Leah Lodato

    A straightforward, easy read describing some pretty incredible animals and their future on this planet. There is a chapter in the epilogue called “A Family Tree Of Whales” which I wish had been in the front of the book because it would have helped with terminology. I found myself with my phone in hand looking up photos and videos of referenced species so images may have been helpful - but who doesn’t have a phone these days for such activities? These animals are amazing and Pyenson’s approachabl A straightforward, easy read describing some pretty incredible animals and their future on this planet. There is a chapter in the epilogue called “A Family Tree Of Whales” which I wish had been in the front of the book because it would have helped with terminology. I found myself with my phone in hand looking up photos and videos of referenced species so images may have been helpful - but who doesn’t have a phone these days for such activities? These animals are amazing and Pyenson’s approachable style and storytelling skills made some very involved subject matter understandable.

  28. 3 out of 5

    Dolly

    I won this on GoodReads. For those with an interest in whales and the study of whales, “Spying on Whales” by Nick Pyenson is a great read. It is a balanced blend of information about whales and what it is like to study them. For me, who finds whales interesting but has never studied them, this was a wonderful place to start. The author’s love of whales shines through on each page. Reading this would encourage a young person to pursue a career in the sciences. For those whale lovers out there, thi I won this on GoodReads. For those with an interest in whales and the study of whales, “Spying on Whales” by Nick Pyenson is a great read. It is a balanced blend of information about whales and what it is like to study them. For me, who finds whales interesting but has never studied them, this was a wonderful place to start. The author’s love of whales shines through on each page. Reading this would encourage a young person to pursue a career in the sciences. For those whale lovers out there, this was an enjoyable read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I won this book on Goodreads. I had a difficult time with this book, it just didn't really hold my interest. At first I was thinking, oh no not another book spewing global warming/climate change and the inaccuracies and political spin that surround it but thank God it was limited to just a few sentences about it here and there. There are some interesting facts about whales here but also some mundane as well. It is mostly a book on whale bones rather than living ones, but nonetheless a lot of inf I won this book on Goodreads. I had a difficult time with this book, it just didn't really hold my interest. At first I was thinking, oh no not another book spewing global warming/climate change and the inaccuracies and political spin that surround it but thank God it was limited to just a few sentences about it here and there. There are some interesting facts about whales here but also some mundane as well. It is mostly a book on whale bones rather than living ones, but nonetheless a lot of information on all types of whales.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    This book starts with fossils and explaining what the fossils of whales tell us about their past. Then it talks about current whales and what we know and are learning about them. Then it ends talking a bit about their possible future. I really enjoyed this book. Especially the stories about the fossils. The book is well written and not too technical for someone who is not in the industry to read. I really enjoyed reading this book. I received a free copy of the book from Goodreads but my opinions This book starts with fossils and explaining what the fossils of whales tell us about their past. Then it talks about current whales and what we know and are learning about them. Then it ends talking a bit about their possible future. I really enjoyed this book. Especially the stories about the fossils. The book is well written and not too technical for someone who is not in the industry to read. I really enjoyed reading this book. I received a free copy of the book from Goodreads but my opinions are my own.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.