Swimming with Orca

Bookshelf: Swimming with Orca

Swimming with Orca: My Life with New Zealand’s Killer Whales – Dr Ingrid N Visser

Swimming with Orca
Swimming with Orca

Long before it was fashionable, Dr Ingrid Visser was studying orca. The New Zealand-born scientist (with Dutch ancestry, hence the familiar surname to South Africans) describes her early scientific career and work in this book, emphasising how difficult it was to strike out into what was a new field of study in New Zealand. Her struggles to obtain funding and equipment for her research were overcome with ingenuity and sheer persistence.

Visser does not hesitate to get into the water to observe the orca that she studies, and spends hours and hours out at sea looking for them. Through diligent public relations, she has built up a network of individuals around New Zealand who report orca sightings to her, enabling her to launch her rubber duck and go to find them as quickly as possible.

There is excellent advice in this book regarding dealing with stranded cetaceans. Visser now runs the Orca Research Foundation, and is outspoken regarding the inappropriateness of keeping orcas and other cetaceans in captivity. Her scientific research has been misappropriated and misrepresented by Seaworld on occasion, to her great ire!

I am always on the lookout for books that would have inspired me as a teenager, and this is one of them. It is simply written and suitable for (I am guessing) age 13 and above. I admire Dr Visser’s refusal to back down at the start of her career, when her lack of experience, her age and her gender were against her. There is perhaps less focus on the orca themselves, and more on academic challenges, than one might expect of a book with the title Swimming with Orca – but I hope that in time Dr Visser will author another volume focused solely on her study subjects.

For more on orca research, this time in the Pacific north west, and a stronger focus on the whales themselves, I recommend Listening to Whales.

Get a copy of the book here or here.

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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.

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