Book Review — Whale Song

Whale Song by Margret Grebowicz is a short study of man’s coexistence Grebowicz is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Goucher College, USA. She is the author of The National Park to Come (2015), Why Internet Porn Matters (2013), and Beyond the Cyborg (2013, with Helen Merrick). Her areas of expertise are 20th and 21st Century Continental philosophy, critical animal studies, environmental philosophy, gender, and sexuality.

Bloomsbury Publishing takes makes an interesting choice for this edition. Rather than a marine biologist as the author they chose a philosopher. This presents a unique perspective on the subject. She starts with contemporary man’s awareness of sentient marines life. Any one old enough to remember the late 1960s and early 1970s remembers the “Save the Whales” campaign and The Song of the Humpback. The Song of the Humpback made it into mainstream culture and even primetime television. Suddenly, marine mammals and the oceans became popular. Jaques Cousteau had a television series exploring the oceans that ran for years.

Grebowicz takes a more modern look as well as the history of communicating with whales and dolphins. For a while, in the mid-1970s there was the talk that dolphins were as smart as humans. She also looks at Blackfish the story of the killer whale, who killed. Also discussed is a flash back to Carl Sagan and the gold plate on Voyager which included whale songs. The Voyager plate then takes the reader back to pop culture and Star Trek IV. The pop culture mentions are not important in themselves, but as a way of showing that the subject was on the minds of ordinary people.

Although communication takes up the lions share of the book, some information on whales in their environment is also given.  99% of earth’s biosphere is ocean and 80% of the earth’s biomass exists in the oceans. Most goods are transported by ship and the noise of the propellers has dramatically reduced the whales’ communication range. The Navy’s low-frequency communications equipment creates even larger problems.  In the past, man thought the oceans were too big to be destroyed or even damaged; We proved ourselves wrong.

Whale Song is an interesting and unique look at our oceans and its intelligent mammals.  Grebowicz combines the present and the recent past and examines man’s relationship with the ocean and, in particular, whales and dolphins.  A well-written book;  Informative and taken from an interesting perspective.


Available September 7, 2014

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