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Wild Blue: A Natural History of the World’s Largest Animal

by Dan Bortolotti

Before human greed and exploitation took its toll, the ocean was home to more than 300,000 blue whales. After half a century of horrific slaughter, and in the face of an indifferent public that doesn’t want to know where its soap and pet food comes from, the largest creature on earth has approached extinction. Today, only a few thousand remain. In Wild Blue, Dan Bortolotti tells the whales’ story with lucidity and depth.

While some may find the book’s style dry, the content more than compensates for this. The author has extensively interviewed leading whale biologists and accompanied several on their field trips, not even allowing seasickness to dissuade him. His research uncovered folklore as ancient as the story of the blue whale that carried Indonesians on its back to their homeland. He has also unearthed details about the whale’s evolution from a wolflike creature 50 million years ago to what he calls its “missing link,” an amphibian described as a “furry crocodile,” which was discovered in Pakistan in 1994.

By using analogies the layperson can understand, Bortolotti makes statistics like the mammal’s immense weight easily comprehensible. He notes, for example, that a bouncing baby blue grows at the rate of four kilos an hour, and that a blue whale’s tongue can cover up to 64 square feet of a whaling ship’s deck space.

Bortolotti took three years to research and write the book, and considering the wealth of information it contains, you may be surprised it didn’t take him longer.