The Great Sperm Whale
A Natural History of the Ocean's Most Magnificent and Mysterious Creature
Over the past several decades, Richard Ellis has produced a remarkable body of work that has been called "magnificent" (Washington Post Book World), "masterful" (Scientific American), "magical" (Men's Journal), and a "dazzling tour de force" (Christian Science Monitor). Ellis's new book—a fascinating tour through the world of the sperm whale—will surely inspire more such praise for the author heralded by Publisher Weekly as "America's foremost writer on marine research."
Written with Ellis's deep knowledge and trademark passion, verve, and wit—and illustrated with a wide array of images including his own signature artwork—his study covers the full spectrum of the sperm whale's existence from its prehistoric past to its current endangered existence. Ellis, as no one else can, illuminates the iconic impact of Physeter macrocephalus ("big-headed blower") on our history, environment, and culture, with a substantial nod to Herman Melville and Moby-Dick, the great novel that put the sperm whale (and whaling) on the literary map.
“Richard Ellis is a prolific and graceful writer who’s written some of the best natural history books of the past decade.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Ellis is fun to read, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic.”
—Washington Post Book WorldSee all reviews...
“Ellis’s great book on the great sperm whale is encyclopedic, compelling, and quite simply very difficult to put down.”
—The Quarterly Review of Biology
“Ellis’s engaging book is the most definitive account to date of this fascinating and iconic species.”
“A remarkable book which cleverly and unsentimentally combines scientific and historical material in a way which will be of great interest to whale enthusiasts. As an entertainingly written review of the sperm whale literature, it is something of a triumph . . . The portrait of the sperm whale that emerges is of a truly amazing example of mammalian evolution.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“A noted whale artist explores the natural history of the sperm whale, to spectacular effect. . . . A principle joy of The Great Sperm Whale is its wonderful illustrations. But he also evokes the leviathan in all its guises—scientific, literary, and legendary—from the history of whaling to the sperm whale’s great adversary, the giant squid.”
“A rich exploration of the evolution and biology of this giant sea creature.”
“At once a richly detailed, informative, scientific exploration as well as a love sonnet to the ocean's greatest leviathan, this will appeal to fans of nautical history, nature, Melville, and armchair cetologists. A superb addition to Ellis’s canon.”
“The most mysterious of all mammals is richly chronicled in this mesmerizing voyage that includes battles with whaleboats and giant squid. Ellis’s rigorous scientific insights are matched only by his eloquent plea for this magnificent creature’s future.”
—Dick Russell, author of Eye of the Whale
“Ellis’s superbly researched and illustrated new book reveals strange new aspects of this most beguiling animal.”
—Hal Whitehead, author of Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the OceanSee fewer reviews...
Ranging far and wide, Ellis covers the sperm whale's evolution, ecology, biology, anatomy, behavior, social organization, intelligence, communications, migrations, diet, and breeding. He also devotes considerable space to the whale's hunting prowess, including its clashes with the giant squid, and to the history of the whaling industry that decimated its numbers during the last two centuries. He even includes a story about a beached juvenile he helped rescue, an event that provided scientists with one of their first opportunities to observe a sperm whale in the water and up close.
Offering a rich tapestry for anyone with an interest in the marvels of ocean life, Ellis's book provides an indispensable guide to the life and times of one of the planet's most intelligent, elusive, and endangered species.