Published: April 2020
'There is a kind of hauntedness in wild animals today- a spectre related to environmental change ... Our fear is that the unseen spirits that move in them are ours. Once more, animals are a moral force.'
When Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beach in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of whales might shed light on the condition of our seas. How do whales experience environmental change? Has our connection to these fabled animals been transformed by technology? What future awaits us, and them? And what does it mean to write about nature in the midst of an ecological crisis?
In Fathoms- the world in the whale, Giggs blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore these questions with clarity and hope. In lively, inventive prose, she introduces us to whales so rare they have never been named; she tells us of the astonishing variety found in whale sounds, and of whale 'pop' songs that sweep across hemispheres. She takes us into the deeps to discover that one whale's death can spark a great flourishing of creatures. We travel to Japan to board whaling ships, examine the uncanny charisma of these magnificent mammals, and confront the plastic pollution now pervading their underwater environment.
In the spirit of Rachel Carson and John Berger, Fathoms is a work of profound insight and wonder that marks the arrival of an essential new voice in narrative nonfiction, and provides us with a powerful, surprising, and compelling view of some of the most urgent issues of our time.
'Fathoms is a marvel- a glorious, prismatic, deeply affecting hymn to the beauty, majesty, and extremity of whales and the human imagining of them.'
'Fathoms reads like a poem. Its virtuoso thinking is a revelation. I can't think of many books in which love for the world and uncompromising, ever-deepening rigour come together in this way. Time slows down. This book makes a permanent dent in the reader.'
'Astonishing ... utterly original ... Fathoms is an attempt to interpret our contemporary moment - and in particular our relationship with the non-human world - through the glistening figure of the whale in all its myriad aspects ... The language of Fathoms has a remarkable, almost gothic intensity. The style is vivid and estranging and luridly compelling, full of weird lights and unexpected textures ... A remarkable literary event because it is a new and hugely ambitious kind of nature writing, verging on poetry. It is itself a whale cure, thrusting us into the dark intestine of the whale, among the indigestible plastics and other pollutants, the better to hear the conscience of tomorrow.'
-Andrew Fuhrmann, The Monthly
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