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From Susan Casey, the New York Times bestselling author of The Wave and The Devil’s Teeth, a breathtaking journey through the extraordinary world of dolphins
Since the dawn of recorded history, humans have felt a kinship with the sleek and beautiful dolphin, an animal whose playfulness, sociability, and intelligence seem like an aquatic mirror of mankind. In recent decades, we have learned that dolphins recognize themselves in reflections, count, grieve, adorn themselves, feel despondent, rescue one another (and humans), deduce, infer, seduce, form cliques, throw tantrums, and call themselves by name. Scientists still don’t completely understand their incredibly sophisticated navigation and communication abilities, or their immensely complicated brains.
While swimming off the coast of Maui, Susan Casey was surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. It was a profoundly transporting experience, and it inspired her to embark on a two-year global adventure to explore the nature of these remarkable beings and their complex relationship to humanity. Casey examines the career of the controversial John Lilly, the pioneer of modern dolphin studies whose work eventually led him down some very strange paths. She visits a community in Hawaii whose adherents believe dolphins are the key to spiritual enlightenment, travels to Ireland, where a dolphin named as “the world’s most loyal animal” has delighted tourists and locals for decades with his friendly antics, and consults with the world’s leading marine researchers, whose sense of wonder inspired by the dolphins they study increases the more they discover.
Yet there is a dark side to our relationship with dolphins. They are the stars of a global multibillion-dollar captivity industry, whose money has fueled a sinister and lucrative trade in which dolphins are captured violently, then shipped and kept in brutal conditions. Casey’s investigation into this cruel underground takes her to the harrowing epicenter of the trade in the Solomon Islands, and to the Japanese town of Taiji, made famous by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, where she chronicles the annual slaughter and sale of dolphins in its narrow bay.
Casey ends her narrative on the island of Crete, where millennia-old frescoes and artwork document the great Minoan civilization, a culture which lived in harmony with dolphins, and whose example shows the way to a more enlightened coexistence with the natural world.
No writer is better positioned to portray these magical creatures than Susan Casey, whose combination of personal reporting, intense scientific research, and evocative prose made The Wave and The Devil’s Teeth contemporary classics of writing about the sea. In Voices in the Ocean, she has written a thrilling book about the other intelligent life on the planet.
After a chance encounter with a pod of wild spinner dolphins while swimming in Honolua Bay, Casey (The Wave) finds herself unable to shake dolphins from her mind. She embarks an investigation into the world of dolphins, impressing the reader with her curiosity and thrilling sense of discovery as she travels the world to learn about these unique creatures. She describes early research into the brain science of dolphins, a highly intelligent species, beginning with Dr. John Lilly in the early 1950s, and traces the origins of dolphin captivity and showcasing, which date back to the circus showman P.T. Barnum in 1861. She also explores the cultural significance of dolphins in different cultures, such as the members of the Chumash nation, California's earliest inhabitants, who considered dolphins to be their direct relatives. But the most compelling aspect of the book is Casey's investigation of the current plight of dolphins faced with captivity; the now infamous dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan; and the seriously ruined state of the world's oceans, for example and the people working to effect change to protect and save them. Casey's book comes as a welcome addition on a topic also explored in the recent documentaries The Cove and Blackfish.