1 The Day the Whales Came Ashore
DAY 1: MARCH 15, 2000, 7:45 A.M.
Sandy Point, Abaco Island, the Bahamas
Powered by his second cup of coffee, Ken Balcomb was motoring through his orientation speech for the Earthwatch Institute volunteers who had flown in the night before. The workday started early at Sandy Point, and Balcomb was eager to finish his spiel and head out onto the water before the sun got high and hot.
“Take as many pictures as you like,” he told them, “but leave the marine life in the ocean. Conches in the Bahamas are listed as a threatened species, so you can’t take their shells home as souvenirs.”
After a breakfast of sliced papaya and peanut butter sandwiches, a dozen volunteers sprawled across the worn couches of the modest beachfront house that Balcomb rented with his wife and research partner, Diane Claridge. Here, on the underpopulated southwestern tip of Abaco, far from the posh resorts on the tiny Out Islands elsewhere in the Bahamas, the only tourist activity was bonefishing in the clear, bright shallows of the continental shelf. What the tourists rarely glimpsed, and what the volunteers had come to see, were the reclusive Cuvier’s and Blainville’s beaked whales of the Great Bahama Canyon.
For the past 15 years, the Earthwatch volunteer program had provided the sole financial support for the decadelong photo-identification survey of the beaked whales here in the Bahamas and of the killer whales in the Pacific Northwest. The Earthlings, as Ken and Diane called them, traveled from across the United States and around the world to assist their survey and to catch a fleeting glance of the deepest-diving creatures in the ocean: the beaked whales that lived inside the underwater canyon offshore from Sandy Point. For the most part, they were altruistic tourists, from teenagers to golden-agers, looking for a useful vacation from the winter doldrums up north. At Sandy Point, they could learn a little about whales, lend a hand in a righteous eco-science project, and enjoy the Bahamian sunshine.
A True Story
War of the Whales
A True Story
"A gripping, brilliantly told tale of the secret and deadly struggle between American national security and the kings of the oceans."—Bob Woodward
War of the Whales is the gripping tale of a crusading attorney who stumbles on one of the US Navy’s best-kept secrets: a submarine detection system that floods entire ocean basins with high-intensity sound—and drives whales onto beaches. As Joel Reynolds launches a legal fight to expose and challenge the Navy program, marine biologist Ken Balcomb witnesses a mysterious mass stranding of whales near his research station in the Bahamas. Investigating this calamity, Balcomb is forced to choose between his conscience and an oath of secrecy he swore to the Navy in his youth.
When Balcomb and Reynolds team up to expose the truth behind an epidemic of mass strandings, the stage is set for an epic battle that pits admirals against activists, rogue submarines against weaponized dolphins, and national security against the need to safeguard the ocean environment. Waged in secret military labs and the nation’s highest court, War of the Whales is a real-life thriller that combines the best of legal drama, natural history, and military intrigue.