Books: Whale Song
WhaleSong: Journey into the Secret Lives of the North American Humpbacks
. Andrew Stevenson, Lyons Press: 2011
This is not a scientific study. Andrew Stevenson developed a great passion and skill for underwater photography and has spent years photographing Humpbacks (Megapterra Novaeangliae) on their yearly migration north from the Caribbean to their feeding grounds in Canada. Stevenson is not a scientist but not only does his book carry an impressive number of recommendations by Cetacean specialists, his written accounts of photographing whales should not be missed, even in favor of the breathtaking pictures.
If you buy this book strictly for your coffee table and do not read it through at least once, karma will find you and she will be displeased when she does.
As a Druid, I tend to depend on the scientific community for my understanding of the animals that appear in my meditations. I try to respect knowledge that people from Earth-based traditions have gained from spiritual revelation or their own meditative journeys, but I feel that to truly respect an animal, I need the truth of what their life is actually like. Then there are the hoards of souped-up ‘shamans’ and ‘wise people’ out there trying to earn a buck through their store of ‘spiritual knowledge’ by publishing works about nature that are only loosely based on the actual behavior of animals in our eco system. When you add that reality to the pain, suffering and violation of scientific principles some major religious groups advocate,I think there’s a further argument for the factual approach.
I consider this book an invaluable addition to my natural history library. I plan to supplement WhaleSong with a volume or two more heavy on text and facts, but for any sense of whales beyond diagrams and words, pictures are crucial. That disparity between bare fact and the depth of an image or inspiration has an echo in human interactions with whales. We often can’t observe whales in their natural habitat. The opportunities to go underwater and spend time in their presence are even more scarce than a chance to observe a small view of a whale from a boat. The value of Stevenson’s photographs lies in their emotional impact, which inspires the reader to go and learn more.