Whales and Dolphins in Question

Bookshelf: Whales and Dolphins in Question

Whales & Dolphins in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book – James G. Mead & Joy P. Gold

Whales and Dolphins in Question
Whales and Dolphins in Question

Bernita brought us this book as a gift from her travels in America early this year. It’s published by the Smithsonian Institution, which is an American conglomerate of museums and research institutions. (If you’ve watched Bones, think of the Jeffersonian – which is fictional but based on the Smithsonian – and you’ve got a good idea of what it’s like. I digress.) The book is arranged in question and answer format. The questions are drawn from the thousands of letters, emails and phone calls received from members of the public by the Smithsonian each year.

Every aspect of cetacean science is covered here. I appreciated the fact that where there is uncertainty or gaps in our knowledge, the authors said so. Science helps us to know things, but equally important is to recognise what we don’t know. Because they live so long, dive so deep and swim so far in such a big ocean, it is hard to learn some things about whales, but with diligent work and intelligent study design, we can still infer much.

The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs by National Geographic photographer Flip Nicklin. It’s beautiful to page through, if you don’t feel up to the demands of reading words, and also easy to dip into because of how it is divided up. I was a whale-obsessed seven year old; I think this book would be a great help to parents of similarly curious children whose every sentence is a question! That is not to say that it is aimed at kids – you might need to do a bit of interpretation if reading with a primary school child. There are extensive references at the back of the book, should you wish to track down the original papers from which the

There is another book in the series called Sharks in Question, which has one author in common with Whales in Question, and if this book is anything to go by, should be a wonderful read.

You can get a copy of Whales in Question here (South Africa), or here. Thank you Bernita!

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.