• Fathoms

  • The World in the Whale
  • By: Rebecca Giggs
  • Narrated by: Shiromi Arserio
  • Length: 12 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction * Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction * Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

A “delving, haunted, and poetic debut” (The New York Times Book Review) about the awe-inspiring lives of whales, revealing what they can teach us about ourselves, our planet, and our relationship with other species.

When writer Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beachfront in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of whales reflect the condition of our oceans. Fathoms: The World in the Whale is “a work of bright and careful genius” (Robert Moor, New York Times best-selling author of On Trails), one that blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore: How do whales experience ecological change? How has whale culture been both understood and changed by human technology? What can observing whales teach us about the complexity, splendor, and fragility of life on Earth?

In Fathoms, we learn about whales so rare they have never been named, whale songs that sweep across hemispheres in annual waves of popularity, and whales that have modified the chemical composition of our planet’s atmosphere. We travel to Japan to board the ships that hunt whales and delve into the deepest seas to discover how plastic pollution pervades our earth’s undersea environment.

With the immediacy of Rachel Carson and the lush prose of Annie Dillard, Giggs gives us a “masterly” (The New Yorker) exploration of the natural world even as she addresses what it means to write about nature at a time of environmental crisis. With depth and clarity, she outlines the challenges we face as we attempt to understand the perspectives of other living beings, and our own place on an evolving planet. Evocative and inspiring, Fathoms “immediately earns its place in the pantheon of classics of the new golden age of environmental writing” (Literary Hub).

©2020 Rebecca Giggs (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Editor's Pick

Deep and Vivid Insights from the Natural World
Poetry and nature writing seem to complement each other perfectly. Maybe we see ourselves more purely in reflections of the natural world, or there is some sort of inherent musicality to how we perceive our environments. Award-winning science writer Rebecca Giggs is also a poet, and she brings her astute prose and contemplative voice to Fathoms. It’s a meditative title that covers vast expanses of thought. Centered and focused on whales, Giggs draws deep insights from these large animals on a variety of topics with the detail and accuracy you’d expect from a science writer, but the grace, philosophy, and aesthetic of a refined novelist. Fathoms is something you have to hear to truly appreciate Giggs’s deft perspective, and to live the life of such a mystical animal. —Michael D., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Fathoms

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Eating whale with author .

If you support the idea of eating whale with the crew of the Nishin Maru than this is for you. Lots of info that can be found elsewhere by the people who actually did the work. This is a collection mostly of their work . I would not have purchased if I was aware of authors moral position, or rather lack their of , regarding the lives of whales. Look further if you care and support this who do the actual work

11 people found this helpful

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Just unsatisfactory... I had such hope!

I did have such hope for this book! Having lived near the ocean for years, and being vitally interested in all things marine, my brain was agape for a truckload of information to be dumped in....bit by bit, or large amounts at a time. Somehow, this just hasn’t been what I hoped/expected.
A lot of the data is valid, and appreciated. When I think about it, the possibility is that the book is too...... poetic (?) does that make sense? I do love some lilting prose, and nothing speaks of largesse like the deep ocean whale fall. But somehow, the poetic delivery softened the facts a bit too much. That sounds odd, now that I Re-read it: sorry if so.
I think this is going to be one of the books that needs the graphics, pictures of various types and from many sources, and charts.....I think. I am going to return this, and see if the ink-and-paper delivery works better.
To a great extent, this book reminds me of a book I read long, long ago... in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Title was “Tge Last Whale.” It was an emotional journey from cover to back. No idea who wrote it, but it was enthralling and heart-rending. I think I’ll try to find it again, then dip back into this one.
Another note: the narrator is evidently Australian; her delivery is faultless. The only problem is that the accent tends to make horrific terrible facts and statistics.... somehow NOT as terrible. I guess that is as backward a compliment as one can get.

3 people found this helpful

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Beautiful, important book

Beautiful nature writing. Weaves together biology, climate science, and environmentalism for an astounding read. I also lived the narration!

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A melancholy, long, withdrawing roar

That phrase from Matthew Arnold kept coming to me, reading this depressing, human-shaming, bleak book. The author doesn’t spare us the pain of examining the human history of whaling: terrible to contemplate, and I’m glad to be part of a society that does not do that anymore. Of course, I’m also part of a society that organized to effectively ban whaling. That victory is won.

This book has no glimmer of hope anywhere within it. The author herself must’ve recognized what a depressing Jeremiad against the human race she has written because she does specifically mention hope late in the book. There’s only one thing that you can conclude from this book: human beings are the worst species on the planet and thoroughly deserve utter annihilation.

I happened to be listening to another book at the same time: the marvelous pigness of pigs, by Joel Salatin. He also has a jeremiad against humanity, but it’s rooted in a religious viewpoint and criticism against humanity for ruining God’s creation. However, his book is actually hopeful: there are things that we can do both individually and collectively to help create a planet of abundance for human beings and animals alike. For one example, properly grazing animals on grasslands, making sure that they consume grass at the optimal bend in the S-curve of growth, leads to those grasses fixing more carbon into the soil. Here, for those who eat meat, is a way to help fight climate change: making sure that only Grassfed meats are consumed means, if the farmer is following proper tillage practices, that more carbon is entering into the soil and being locked away.

Rebecca Giggs is an atheist and a vegetarian, and so could never adopt Salatin’s viewpoint. But I know which book depressed me to hopelessness and which has already spurred me to action. Giggs’ book will disappear because its approach will lead to the end of the only species that can read it. The future belongs to those who show up for it, and that will be the many followers of Salatin.

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Sad the book had to end

A haunting and beautiful love story to the whale. Highly recommended, I already can't wait to listen again.

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