Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Narwhal Review

(from the book jacket)
The narwhal is an ivory-tusked whale that lives in the High Arctic.  Unlike its popular cousin, the beluga, the narwhal is largely unknown, yet its story is one of the most fascinating in the natural world.
The fictional unicorn owes its existence to the elusive narwhal.  All the so-called unicorn horns in museums and palaces throughout the world are, in fact, narwhal tusks.  This whale’s remote habitat enabled the narwhal-unicorn connection to become one of the best-kept trade secrets of all time.  For centuries, it was in the best interests of narwhal hunters and traders to maintain the unicorn legend – the ten-foot-long “unicorn horn” was worth ten times its weight in gold.
In stunning photographs and an intriguing text, Fred Bruemmer explores the unicorn myth and natural history of the narwhal.  Interesting information about migration patterns, physiology, hunting methods, predators, breeding and young reveal the narwhal’s world for the first time in book form.  The author’s own experiences with scientists studying the narwhal and with Inuit of Greenland and Canada who hunt it add a personal note to this story of one of the world’s most mysterious creatures.
The narwhal is rare in much of its range.  It is hoped that this beautiful book will help make people aware of this marvelous whale and efforts to protect it in its High Artic home.

There is a lot of information here, and it is interesting, unfortunately most of it isn’t about narwhals.  At least not live narwhals.  There is a lot told about the myth of unicorns and why so many people wanted unicorn horns and were willing to spend so much money to get them.  And there is a lot about how the narwhal tusks were sold as unicorn horns and how they ended up all over the place.  There is a lot about the Inuit and how they hunt narwhals.  But about live swimming narwhals?  Not so much.  There are some great pictures.  (Once again many of them not of narwhals.)  I learned a lot in this book just not about what I thought I would.  So if you are not interested in the use of unicorn horn in medicine, or the history of the narwhal hunt, or the trade route of the tusks then don’t bother with this one.

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