Fathoms: The World in the Whale

Author(s): Rebecca Giggs

Science & Nature

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 bestselling 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).

“[A] delving, haunted and poetic debut.”
—The New York Times Book Review

—The New Yorker

"Fathoms immediately earns its place in the pantheon of classics of the new golden age of environmental writing."
Literary Hub

“A work of bright and careful genius. Equal parts Rebecca Solnit and Annie Dillard, Giggs masterfully combines lush prose with conscientious history and boots-on-the-beach reporting. With Giggs leading us gently by the hand we dive down, and down, and down, into the dark core of the whale, which, she convincingly reveals, is also the guts of the world.”
Robert Moor, New York Times bestselling author of On Trails: An Exploration

Staff Review - Rachael

Some books are revelations, and Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs is one of those books.

Giggs takes us from the global history of whaling, from therapeutic bathing in whale carcasses in Eden through to the ecological crises—climate change and mounting plastic pollution—now facing our oceans and Earth's largest inhabitants. Despite the focus on what seems and very often feels, like a hopeless situation, Fathoms is  crammed with philosophical wonder and hope.

It's hard not to feel small in the grand scheme of things when reading that solar activity causes geomagnetic mountains, these unfathomable underwater mountains, to shift and alter the behaviour and possibly even the migratory routes of whales. In spite of these gargantuan facts, this book will not make you feel insignificant—Fathoms interrogates our relationship to the natural world and the animals that we share our space with.

While Fathoms is a book that may turn you into an obnoxious fountain of whale facts, it is also suffused with lyrical and insightful nature writing, and it will make you care about the world around you—seeable and unseeable—even more than you could imagine.


Product Information







General Fields

  • : 9781925321388
  • : Scribe Publications
  • : Scribe Publications
  • : April 2020
  • : 23.4 X 15.3
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Rebecca Giggs
  • : Paperback
  • : Apr-20
  • : English
  • : 352