Thursday, January 14, 2016

Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: After encountering a pod of wild dolphins while swimming, Casey, a journalist, felt captivated and healed by these unique and mysterious sea creatures. She set about traveling the world to learn as much as she could about the dolphins themselves, the people who love them, and the ways the human and marine worlds interact.

What I Thought: I picked up this book because I was looking for something "different" to read and realized that I, like Casey at the beginning of the book, knew very little about dolphins. There's certainly plenty of marine biology in this book, but its standout feature is how Casey makes a point of tracking down and interviewing all kinds of people whose lives intersect with the dolphins'. Keeping an open mind and always wanting to hear a person's side of the story in their own worlds, she visits everywhere from an infamous marine theme park in Canada to an Irish village "adopted" by a wild dolphin to the Japanese town featured in the award-winning documentary The Cove, where much of the population's income is derived from the killing (and live selling) of the local dolphin population. She consorts with millionaire and New Age mystics - and tags along to plenty of protests.

This is not an easy book to read. Humans are only just beginning to understand how much we don't understand about dolphins, and this ignorance has led to the torture and death of dolphins even at the hands of scientists passionate about the species. Collateral damage from the various activities humanity carries out in the sea - everything from commercial fishing to military sonar testing - has taken its toll as well. Casey, though sympathetic to the dolphins' plight, is careful not to outwardly demonize many of the humans she sees inadvertently causing dolphins harm; she simply wishes they would be more considerate. Her true horror's reserved for the mass slaughter of dolphins and their inhumane treatment at unscrupulous theme parks.

If anything, I still wish there were more actual stories of dolphins in this book; it's much easier to track down and talk to people who care about dolphins than it is to find wild dolphins themselves. But that makes this book an excellent introduction to the subject - it left me wanting more. I'll probably check out a more scientific book on dolphins next, but as a primer, and as an overview of how humans and dolphins interact, this was an excellent "first read".

Readalikes: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, for another travel memoir based around a specific subject; Chrysalis by Kim Todd, for another accessible story of natural science & scientists

Or look this book up on NoveList!