Basking with Humpbacks

Basking with Humpbacks: Tracking Threatened Marine Life in New England Waters

The second book by natural history writer Todd McLeish profiles 11 of the most rare and threatened species of wildlife living in the marine environment around New England. In Basking with Humpbacks: Tracking Threatened Marine Life in New England Waters, Todd takes readers along on an entertaining first-person journey with biologists who are studying these creatures to better understand the complex threats they face. He follows basking sharks—the second largest fish in the sea—as they search for food, helps harbor porpoises escape from fishing nets, snorkels in search of wild bay scallops, and learns how the blood of horseshoe crabs is used in medical research. Along the way he visits the islands where rare seabirds nest, tracks humpback whales on their long migration to the Gulf of Maine, and watches as stranded sea turtles are released back into the ocean.

These first-person experiences are coupled with interviews with biologists and other experts who explain in their own words the important role these creatures play in the marine ecosystem and what steps must be taken to protect them. In examining the natural history of these creatures, Todd also discusses the physics of waves and currents, the geology of the seabed, the chemistry of sea water, and other natural factors influencing the lives of New England marine life.


What They’re Saying

Publisher’s Weekly

“Like all the best science writing, McLeish writes engagingly about non-human subjects and the humans who study them. A hopeful recurring theme is the growing cooperation between research scientists and fishermen (such as the effort to free harbor porpoises from herring traps in the Maritimes), which keeps this highly informative book from drowning in bad news.”

Maine Sunday Telegram

“By depicting a series of expeditions, each with its own cast of characters and unique history, McLeish animates the material…perhaps most endearing are some of the characters we meet. Among them are a fisherman who dreams about halibut, and a city kid-turned-marine scientist whose life changed course when he first studied seaweed. Their passion, along with that of others featured throughout the book, makes for an engaging read.”

South County Independent

“Part of the book’s enjoyment lies in the sheer diversity of its subjects, from large (basking sharks) to small (bay scallop), colorful (harlequin duck) to frightening (Atlantic wolffish), ancient (American horseshoe crab) to acrobatic (humpback whale). While clearly enthusiastic about his topic, the author conveys just enough personality to keep the profiles from being dry and academic, yet always manages to emphasize the science at the heart of each story…along the way he gives amateur naturalists some valuable lessons and discoveries for their own forays into the wild.”

Published by University Press of New England, Basking with Humpbacks was released in August 2009.