Wild Blue

Equal parts history and science, Wild Blue (Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, and Thomas Allen Publishers, 2009, now distributed by Dundurn Press) is the first comprehensive portrait of the blue whale, the largest creature that has ever lived. The biggest blue whales can outweigh every player in the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball combined. Their mouths can gulp more than 80,000 litres of seawater. A newborn can be seven metres long and gain 18,000 kilograms in seven months—about four kilos per hour.

A hundred years ago, the oceans held some 300,000 of these magnificent creatures. But by the late 1960s, whalers had hunted them to the brink of extinction. Only in recent years have scientists begun to identify individuals and understand how they dive, how they feed, where they migrate, and why the emit their haunting, low-frequency calls, the most powerful sounds made by any animal. Researchers have answered many questions, but the blue whale does not give up its secrets easily.

Hear Dan discuss the book in the following interviews:

The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVO (April 8, 2009)
The Current, CBC Radio (May 4, 2009)
Ocean Currents, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (May 4, 2009)

What the reviewers say:

“This is quite simply one of the best books ever written on any whale: accurate, up to date and immensely readable. Bortolotti has a great knack for explaining complex scientific concepts in simple, accessible ways for the general reader. Wild Blue is a thorough and fascinating account of the biology, behavior and tragic hunting history of this giant among giants.”
Phillip J. Clapham, Smithsonian Institution

“Every whale species should be lucky enough to have a chronicler such as Bortolotti… Bortolotti has the enviable knack of translating the jargon of biologists and complex scientific ideas into not just plain English, but enjoyable English. He is especially good at finding metaphors to make comprehensible what is otherwise not… Given what we have done to the species, it is a wonder blues allow themselves to be approached by any whale-watchers. Perhaps it is because their hearts are as big as a car, and they have chroniclers like Bortolotti to tell us who their friends really are.”
Greg Gatenby, The Globe and Mail

“I have always been a stickler for accuracy, and I am delighted to report that Dan Bortolotti got everything right; from the inner workings of the largest of all cetaceans to the history of international whaling, where one of the goals appeared to be the elimination of the blue whale from the world’s oceans. Wild Blue is not only about the awesome capabilities of this magnificent creature, it is also an important history of animal killing for profit and a reflection on the future of wild animals in a world dominated by man.”
Richard Ellis, research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, and author of The Book of Whales and Men and Whales

Wild Blue is worthy of its mighty subject. With an easy to read style, Bortolotti gives us a fascinating account of the history as well as the enduring mysteries of one of the world’s most amazing creatures.”
Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

“Dan Bortolotti turns his considerable journalistic skills to chronicling the blue whale saga — the animal hunted to near extinction and studied now with great passion by teams of researchers in the few pockets around the world where blues still roam. Spellbinding superlatives abound. Written with authority, insight and compassion, Wild Blue reveals for the first time the big picture on the blue whale story.”
Erich Hoyt, Senior Research Fellow, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

“With prodigious research and lucid — sometimes eloquent — writing, Bortolotti tells three great stories in this book. First is the tragedy of how human greed and technological ingenuity came close to annihilating our planet’s largest animal, turning hundreds of thousands of these majestic creatures into margarine, soap, pet food, fertilizer, and other industrial commodities. Second is an engaging mystery story, in which the author leads us deep into the living research of the modern scientific detectives who are attempting to understand these beings that only a few people can ever hope even to glimpse.  Finally is the coda, that shows us the interconnections between the future of the blue whale and our own species’ roles on the blue planet.”
H. Bruce Franklin, author of The Most Important Fish in the Sea

“In his chronicle of the great blue whales, which range across each of our planetary oceans from the North Atlantic to Antarctica, Dan Bortolotti eloquently describes both their grandeur and the ongoing threats to their future. Hunted to the edge of elimination in many regions, blue whales must still continue to swim a gauntlet of underwater noise and climatic impacts, even as scientists are only beginning to learn where they travel to give birth. The author provides us with an accurate history and up-to-date science on the greatest leviathan this planet has ever known.”
Dick Russell, author of Eye of the Whale

“Engages readers with a smooth writing style and a storyteller’s easeful tempo… A lively, thorough and judicious survey of the species.”
Kirkus Reviews

“In this elegant blend of science and history, Bortolotti provides the most comprehensive title yet on blue whales for the general reader… Wild Blue is an effective twenty-first-century fusion of marine biology and international politics… Bortolotti’s book gathers all that is known about this extraordinary and precious species into one terrifically readable resource.”
Booklist

“The key challenge to writing a good whale book is how to deal with the wealth of unpublished material. Whale science is still young and in process. Even scientific papers and reports can be sketchy and dated; thus much of what is known is carried around in the heads of frontline researchers. In the best journalistic tradition, Dan Bortolotti interviews, investigates, weighs evidence, compares spoken and written accounts of these frontline researchers and emerges with a well written, entertaining result.”
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Wild Blue is scientifically exacting yet always accessible to the nonspecialist reader. That’s a very difficult tightrope for any author to walk, and Bortolotti never loses his balance. This will stand for a long time as the definitive work on its subject.”
Matt Bille, author of Shadows of Existence

Wild Blue is no chatty, anecdote-driven book. Bortolotti has truly learned several disciplines of knowledge to put it together, from cultural history to paleontology. It’s one of the best books on wildlife that I’ve read in years.”
Lection

 

 

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