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Fathoms : The World in the Whale
by Rebecca Giggs




Overview -
Winner of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction * Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction * Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

A "delving, haunted, and poetic debut" (The New York Times Book Review) about the awe-inspiring lives of whales, revealing what they can teach us about ourselves, our planet, and our relationship with other species.

When writer Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beachfront in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of whales reflect the condition of our oceans. Fathoms: The World in the Whale is "a work of bright and careful genius" (Robert Moor, New York Times bestselling author of On Trails), one that blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore: How do whales experience ecological change? How has whale culture been both understood and changed by human technology? What can observing whales teach us about the complexity, splendor, and fragility of life on earth?

In Fathoms, we learn about whales so rare they have never been named, whale songs that sweep across hemispheres in annual waves of popularity, and whales that have modified the chemical composition of our planet's atmosphere. We travel to Japan to board the ships that hunt whales and delve into the deepest seas to discover how plastic pollution pervades our earth's undersea environment.

With the immediacy of Rachel Carson and the lush prose of Annie Dillard, Giggs gives us a "masterly" (The New Yorker) exploration of the natural world even as she addresses what it means to write about nature at a time of environmental crisis. With depth and clarity, she outlines the challenges we face as we attempt to understand the perspectives of other living beings, and our own place on an evolving planet. Evocative and inspiring, Fathoms "immediately earns its place in the pantheon of classics of the new golden age of environmental writing" (Literary Hub).

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More About Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

 
 
 

Overview

Winner of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction * Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction * Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

A "delving, haunted, and poetic debut" (The New York Times Book Review) about the awe-inspiring lives of whales, revealing what they can teach us about ourselves, our planet, and our relationship with other species.

When writer Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beachfront in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of whales reflect the condition of our oceans. Fathoms: The World in the Whale is "a work of bright and careful genius" (Robert Moor, New York Times bestselling author of On Trails), one that blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore: How do whales experience ecological change? How has whale culture been both understood and changed by human technology? What can observing whales teach us about the complexity, splendor, and fragility of life on earth?

In Fathoms, we learn about whales so rare they have never been named, whale songs that sweep across hemispheres in annual waves of popularity, and whales that have modified the chemical composition of our planet's atmosphere. We travel to Japan to board the ships that hunt whales and delve into the deepest seas to discover how plastic pollution pervades our earth's undersea environment.

With the immediacy of Rachel Carson and the lush prose of Annie Dillard, Giggs gives us a "masterly" (The New Yorker) exploration of the natural world even as she addresses what it means to write about nature at a time of environmental crisis. With depth and clarity, she outlines the challenges we face as we attempt to understand the perspectives of other living beings, and our own place on an evolving planet. Evocative and inspiring, Fathoms "immediately earns its place in the pantheon of classics of the new golden age of environmental writing" (Literary Hub).

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781982120696
  • ISBN-10: 198212069X
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: July 2020
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.15 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Fathoms

Australian writer Rebecca Giggs opens her book, Fathoms: The World in the Whale, with a disturbing scene: A crowd has gathered to observe the death of a beached whale, a process that can take days as the whale’s insides boil beneath its blubber. As the crowd takes selfies with the heaving leviathan, Giggs approaches an official who might be called upon to euthanize the whale. She learns that whales cannot be euthanized through a shot to their brain or heart; such acts would only increase the creature’s suffering. Instead, a poison informally known as Green Dream must be shot by the gallon into the whale. To avoid contaminating other wildlife, whales euthanized with Green Dream are then hauled to a dump, where they decompose with human waste. As this opening anecdote suggests, Giggs has an eye for unforgettable and disturbing details that probe at the ancient and ongoing relationship between humans and whales.

Whale eyes, whale tongues, whale noises, whale skin: Giggs explores the contours of humans’ obsession with whales over time in terrific specificity. Her investigation is historical, cultural, biological and personal. She has pursued whales herself, visiting decomposing whales, going whale watching and, as a child, reaching out a small hand to touch a whale skeleton in a museum (a skeleton whose provenance she later traces, wondering how so many dead whales came to hang in museums). She travels to Japan to eat whale and discusses them with others—at dinner parties with friends and in small university offices with academics. All of this is engaging. Yet it is Giggs’ poetic and insightful analysis that elevates this book into something unforgettable.

In the whale, Giggs truly does find the world. She finds clues that unlock how humans have engaged nature—tales of greed, aggression, wonder, desperation, longing, nostalgia, love, curiosity and obsession. Her prose, previously published in literary outlets such as Granta, is luminous. “A whale is a wonder,” she writes near the book’s end, “not because it is the world’s biggest animal, but because it augments our moral capacity.” In tracing humankind’s continuing intersection with these alluring creatures, Giggs ultimately uncovers seeds of hope and, planting them in her fertile mind, cultivates a lush landscape that offers remarkable views of nature, humanity and how we might find a way forward together.

 

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