New Book -- Narwhals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World Explores Mysterious Whales

Yes, narwhals are real. Glad we’ve gotten that out of the way.

With white splotches, grayish-black bodies and a dramatically protruding tusk piercing through their skin on the left side, the uncertainty surrounding the narwhal is about as dark as the deep, black arctic waters in which they swim. In his new book, Narwhals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World Author Todd McLeish attempts to shed light on one of the least studied whales on the planet.

Having lived in Nunavut for a brief period of time, I jumped at the opportunity to review a book that focused on the majestic and bizarre world that is the high Canadian Arctic. McLeish describes the arctic landscape as best as one can, from the fjords to the cracked ice, sparsely vegetated tundra to the stunning stone outcrops; it is an experience unlike any other. Few life forms survive in the harsh arctic climate, let alone thrive.

McLeish weaves together his own personal story of a life-long love for the marine creature along with current scientific research and relevant historical information. His travels with research teams and Inuit hunters give us answers, yet also allow the reader to draw their own conclusions because some facts just simply don’t exist yet.

The reader follows him on his quest for knowledge, from the National Snow and Ice Center in Colorado to the farthest reaches of Greenland. Traveling on tiny prop planes, kayaks and hiking on the ice, it truly is an incredible journey just to reach the remote habitat of the narwhal. The animals live off the coast of Greenland and Canada’s Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean.

Perhaps the most poignant portions of the text are when McLeish makes discoveries himself. Towards the end of the book, he witnesses a narwhal hunt first-hand and learns that despite his love and respect for the narwhal, he has no problem with tasting one.

The author did his homework on narwhals, finding the first historical documentation of the creature in medieval texts and chronologically citing each source illustration on how their depictions have changed over time. The first drawings painted a crude picture of the creature, some showing hawk-like beaks while others appeared with a cylindrical wolf snout and wings.

The book reads quickly but, keep in mind, not all of you’re questions will be answered. However, it is one of the most complete and comprehensive profiles of narwhals that I’ve read. It probes the unanswered question about the narwhals with multiple hypotheses. The book is one of the definitive sources on these amazing creatures.

Watch the book trailer! Pick up your own copy of the book for $26.95 at the Washington University Press website or at an Indiebound bookstore near your