Small, colorful books that can fit easily in tourists' luggage are very popular this time of year. Some will endure the test of time as reading material; others won't.
"Alaska's Watchable Whales: Humpback & Killer Whales"
Photos by Mark Kelley and John Hyde
Text by Linda Daniel
Whale tale interviews by Scott Foster, forward by Lynn Schooler.
Hardcover, 80 pages. $19.95.
One new book that is sure to be around for years is "Alaska's Watchable Whales," a collection of full-color photographs by Mark Kelley and John Hyde. The photos alone are enough to capture attention - obviously chosen from hundreds, probably thousands, of worthy candidates gathered over decades. Some of the photos have the studied composition of paintings; others seem to capture the fearful surge of leviathan's power. Some drip with bubbles and foam; others sing with the vibrant hues of sunrise or sunset. And it's noteworthy that none of the photos were digitally enhanced or manipulated in any way.
Souvenir-hunters would buy this book just for the magnificent photos. However, the images are only half of the real worth between these covers. The photos are supported by excellent, readable text on such subjects as "watchable behaviors" - like fin or flipper slapping, spyhopping, tail lobbing, breaching, lunge feeding and bubble netting. There is concise material about range and migration, size and speed, adolescence, birth, the fat content of whales' milk, predators, social structure, language, and group dynamics.
Did you know that orcas don't have lips? That they have an appetite for 22 different kinds of mammals? Or that a humpback can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes? In short, there seems to be an answer for any question you could think of about the world of whales. Nationally-recognized whale experts have fact-checked the text. For that reason, teachers will enjoy using this book in class, and you can feel satisfaction in giving it to a child who is crazy about marine life and needs something more educational than another Nemo t-shirt.
For those who like to master short tales of Alaskan adventure to repeat at class reunions and cocktail parties, there are eight true stories of experiences such as whales getting tied in anchor gear, nearly downing small planes, and hitting small boats with pectoral fins while breaching.
The credits for "Alaska's Watchable Whales" read like a Southeast who's who: Mark Kelley is one of Alaska's most published photographers. John Hyde was for years a photographer and videographer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and spends more than 50 days a year on the waters of Southeast in pursuit of wildlife images. Lynn Schooler, who wrote the foreword, is the author of "The Blue Bear," Amazon.com's No. 1 choice for nature writing in 2002. Scott Foster, who conducted the whale tale interviews, dished out publicity for UAS for years and also hosted Juneau's television magazine, "Rain Country." Writer Linda Daniel spent 15 summers on the water among Alaska's whales, has worked as a shipboard naturalist, and has contributed to more than 25 books on Alaska's human and natural history. Scientific proofreader Jan Straley of Sitka is one of Alaska's foremost whale researchers. And so on.
This book will make a great holiday gift if you've already sent all the other good books to relatives Outside.
A small portion of the sale of each book will be donated to the whale research community in the form of an annual grant.