War Of The Whales: A True Story has a little bit of everything: Biology, History, Warfare, Law, and Romance. The book tells a story about a conflict taking place in our oceans, between the Navy and and the Cetacean (Whales and Dolphins). It’s not just our Navy, it’s any Navy that uses Active Sonar. (All of them?) Any sound over 180 decibels is dangerous to creatures that use echolocation to live. The book follows marine mammal researchers in their oceanography studies. We learn most oceanic research is funded by the U.S. Navy. (a little conflict of interest) But when whales and dolphins are found in mass beachings in the vicinity of Navy maneuvers it’s hard to ignore. Horwitz delves into the history of whales, people and institutions in the story. It’s not just: environmentalist = good and military = bad. Horwitz delves pretty deep into whales, whaling, and Marine Biology. Some reviewers complain about this detail but I enjoyed it. As I did on the history of sonar in the U.S. Navy. I did not find it a digression, but an integral part in understanding the issues. So when the story is resolved in the courtroom I had the background to see why the rulings we made.
I was left with some questions that maybe Horwitz could follow up on in later editions:
- During the necropsy on the beached whale the biologist points out the whale shuts down its hearing before vocalizing. This suggests that whale could control possibly shut down their hearing if given a warning, like ramping the sonar volume. I’m sure I’m wrong but this fact is laid out in the book and the reader is left hanging.
- This book also mentions that for every whale beached, there are more whales that didn’t make it to the surface. So has any body studied that ratio. It seem like it would be seriously important to know how many whales are getting killed with every event.
- And what is happening to the Cetacean populations? Is it stable, growing, or as it implies in the book collapsing.
- There was history of whales and dolphins echo-locate for the Navy. This was discontinued. Not because it didn’t work. In fact the sonar on these mammals is superior to that used by the Navy. So why not use this resource rather than kill these mammals with our own sonar.
- “Following public concern, the U.S. Defense department was ordered by the 9th Circuit Court to strictly limit use of its Low Frequency Active Sonar during peacetime” .. and precluded its use in areas were Cetaceans are currently ranging. This seems to me to defeat the point of having Active Sonar. If I was an enemy state I would order my submarines to loiter in those very areas. –quote from Wikipedia