- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Nan A. Talese (March 20, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 038549176X
- ISBN-13: 978-0385491761
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,510,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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To Touch a Wild Dolphin Hardcover – March 20, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
In the tradition of When Elephants Weep by Susan McCarthy and Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, biologist Smolker provides an intimate, engaging glimpse into the world of wild dolphins. In 1982, Smolker sold all her possessions and traveled to Monkey Mia, a remote beach in western Australia where people frequently encounter wild dolphins. For 15 years, her team collected data on dolphin existence: their sophisticated social structures; their vocal and mimetic skills enabling communication; and their clever predatory techniques, including the use of tools and sound to capture fish. Smolker and her colleagues identified more than 200 individual dolphins, among whom she discerned a host of distinct personalities. Among them was Holeyfin, the "grand old matriarch" of Monkey Mia, and her daughters Nicky, who relishes rough-and-tumble play, and "gorgeous, energetic" Holly, with whom the author often frolicked. Such character sketches and a wealth of well-told anecdotes enliven the book's more technical material, most of which reinforces common ideas about dolphin intelligence and friendliness, with additional findings on male dolphins' violence toward female dolphins during mating. Most disturbing are the deaths of some dolphins, for which Smolker blames overflow from a beachside tourist facility's septic tank. Her worry for the safety of her cetacean acquaintances lends gravity to this animated, empathetic account of life among Flipper's wild kin. (Mar. 20)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Dolphins intrigue people, perhaps because we relate to their intelligence and playful spirits. At Shark Bay in western Australia, people intrigue the wild dolphins. For decades, certain dolphins and their offspring have interacted with humans, approaching them voluntarily. Smolker spent over 15 years studying these dolphins and their behavior. She has attempted to understand their complex language of whistles and clicks and was among the first to observe tool use in dolphins. Sadly, many of the animals she observed daily, identified by sight, interacted with often, and who thus revealed some of their dolphin secrets are now dead. The once-quiet bay is a tourist resort with sometimes hundreds of people in the water at once and rangers required to help keep order, while human waste may be responsible for the deaths of several of the main study dolphins. Yet, humans and dolphins still interact here, with many safe and beneficial outcomes. Enjoyable, informative, nontechnical, and insightful, this work is important and suitable for all collections. Nancy Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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One of my favorite quotes from this book: "So what is it that we see when we look into the eye of a dolphin and are struck immediately and powerfully with a sense that theirs is an intelligence of extraordinary measure? We see an eye that appraises, reserves judgment, watches intently, weighs and considers, infers and understands".
This book made me want to quit my day job and camp on the shores of Shark Bay just for the chance to interact with the dolphins there and observe them with my own eyes. But, the reality of the work Ms. Smolker has done must surely have been fraught with many struggles... camping your life away, never having roots, sitting in the hot sun for hours on end with not much to show for it, never knowing where your next source of funding will come from, having to live in close quarters with other researchers who you may or may not enjoy, and essentially living the life of a vagabond. Ms. Smolker has paid a high price for being one of the first researchers to document the extraordinary lives of dolphins. Her reward has been immense, yet I have to believe that, so too has been her sacrifice. In this book, she concentrates on the former, sharing the shining rewards of her quest, and we are all the better for it. Thank you, Ms. Smolker, for such a richly written book.
Another thing, the three most intelligent are the humpback whale, the dolphin, and the octopus. (Yes, octopi, nine brains, three hearts, capable of reasoning and self-awareness in the wild) Lyric/Writer, Biographer
An extreme challenge for people that want to study dolphins is that dolphins live under water, swim fast and swim long distances.
She was one of the first people to study dolphins in shark bay in Australia that was special in that it is a rare place where dolphins live near the shoreline and the water is shallow enough to visually follow the dolphins.
This starts out as Smolker as an undergrad in college where she first hears about shark bay. She and another student fly there for the summer to check it out. The book tells her story and the story of the dolphins, and of the dolphin research as she works her way through to her PhD.
Research at shark bay was pivotal to further and on going research on dolphin behavior in the wild. If you are interested in dolphin research you will find this book a fascinating read.