The world in the whale, by Rebecca Giggs
Shortlisted for The Nib Award, 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. It 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.