Doreen Cunningham: “The Song in the Seas” – Gray Giants

Gray whales find plenty of food along the coasts of Alaska. On the coasts of Mexico, they give birth to their young and raise them for four months without eating. In the spring, the starving mother whales and their children set off on the dangerous journey north.

Stranded in the dorm

In “The Song of the Seas” Doreen Cunningham weaves gripping things Nature Writing about the life and behavior of the whales with their very personal journey and self-discovery. As a freelance journalist and young mother, she was caught up in a bitter custody battle that left her emotionally and financially ruined.

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Stranded in a home for single mothers, she hatched a rescue plan: she would travel to Mexico with her two-year-old son and follow the gray whales.

Of life by the sea

Her book tells of this daring undertaking. The description of rugged nature and wild boat trips over meter-high waves in search of mother whales and their children form the strongest passages in terms of writing. Surf roars, ice floes glisten in the sun, backs of whales tower up out of the water, wafts of fog lie heavy over Alaska.

The author has already met some Iñupiat there on previous trips and is now deepening her relationship with indigenous women in particular. Her book gives a very personal and detailed insight into the challenges of Iñupiat life between cultural destruction, alcoholism, youth migration, the dark and cold of life in the far north and a deep love of traditional ways of life, including whaling.

self-discovery in nature

In contact with these people and the whales migrating with their young, Doreen Cunningham experiences her transformation, finds consolation and encouragement in the will to survive of humans and animals. Unfortunately, the personal passages in the book sometimes slip into kitsch or, in contrast to the fresh, gripping natural prose, sound a little unimaginative and stamped.

Her text becomes incomparably stronger when the author talks about marine pollution, climate change and the life-threatening situation of whales. Longingly she calls across the sea for one of the gray giants and asks herself: “Can he hear me? Maybe it’s calling me, a low-pitched sound that echoes from underwater canyons and can travel hundreds of miles.” The animal’s hearing may have been damaged because it was bombarded by airguns used to search for fossil fuels.

protection of marine animals

Such tests can take months, says Doreen Cunningham. The pulser shots penetrate several hundred kilometers into the sea floor every minute, pulverize the internal organs of giant squids, kill zooplankton and make the complex vocal communication of whales impossible.

The animals desperately try to avoid the industrial noise. Some species have already fallen silent. Doreen Cunningham donates a portion of the book proceeds to the Indigenous Sea Wardens who live off it and fight to protect it.

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