Friday, November 16, 2012

Coming soon

           Narwhals have been in the news a great deal lately, but not in the way I would have hoped.  President Barack Obama named his system of tracking election volunteers after the ice whale, and the Natty Narwhal is the codename for a Linux software program that is being replaced this month by an upgraded version named Quetzel.  As those references to narwhals soon fade, I will be making a personal push to deliver some much-needed attention to the real narwhal, an animal whose physical qualities and behavioral abilities far exceed what software marketers and political operatives can even imagine.
            My book, Narwhals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World, is due in stores in the U.S. and Canada by March 1, and it is already available for presale through Amazon.  You can get a flavor for the book by watching the video trailer produced by my friend Rodd Perry, whose company The Ant Farm makes trailers and advertisements for many of the top Hollywood movies.  I’m really pleased with how the trailer turned out, and even more pleased with the book.
            Published by University of Washington Press, it examines in detail the remarkable Arctic whale and the many issues it faces, from a warming climate to hunting pressures, from pollutants in its environment to ice entrapments, from increased oil and mineral exploration to competition for food with a growing fishing industry.  And yet the narwhal seems to thrive in the harsh Arctic conditions, despite these challenges.
            The book takes readers along on my adventures far above the Arctic Circle to see and study narwhals. I joined teams of narwhal researchers who are trying to answer the many questions that remain about the animal’s life cycle; visited the laboratories of a group of dental researchers delving into the mysteries of its tusk; met with the Inuit to learn about narwhal legends and to observe them on their narwhal hunts; examined centuries-old logbooks from whalers and explorers for early observations and insights; and interviewed climate scientists to better understand how changing ice conditions may affect the whales. Along the way I observed and learned about the many other unique animals living in the narwhal’s frozen world, from walruses and polar bears to bowhead and beluga whales, ivory gulls and two kinds of seals.
            I was pleased that one of my favorite authors of marine science books, Carl Safina, offered to read my manuscript before its publication. In his usual eloquent prose, Carl wrote that “Todd McLeish takes us far in several dimensions—across space, through time, and into the interiors of the human mental landscape—to paint a vivid and eloquent portrait of an animal seldom seen, wrongly imagined, and too often mistreated. This is one of those rare books that lifts you up and takes you in.”
            I have had a remarkable four years of research and writing the book, and I hope you’ll soon join me in learning about this iconic animal.