What if animals and humans could speak to one another? Tom Mustill—the nature documentarian who went viral when a thirtyton humpback whale breached onto his kayak—asks this question in his thrilling investigation into whale science and animal communication.

“When a whale is in the water, it is like an iceberg: you only see a fraction of it and have no conception of its size.”
On September 12, 2015, Tom Mustill was paddling in a two-person kayak with a friend, just off the coast of California. It was cold, but idyllic—until a humpback whale breached, landing on top of them, releasing the energy equivalent of forty hand grenades. He was certain he was about to die, but both he and his friend survived miraculously unscathed. In the interviews that followed the incident, Mustill was left with one question: What could this astonishing encounter teach us?

Drawing from his experience as a naturalist and wildlife filmmaker, Mustill started investigating human-whale interactions around the world. When he met two tech entrepreneurs, who told him they wanted to use artificial intelligence (AI) to decode animal communication, Mustill embarked on a journey where big data meets big beasts, using animal eavesdropping technologies to train AI—originally designed to translate human languages—to discover patterns in the conversations of animals.

There is a revolution taking place in biology, as the technologies we've developed to explore our own languages are turned to nature. From seventeenth century Dutch inventors, to the whaling industry of the nineteenth century, to the cutting edge of Silicon Valley, How to Speak Whale looks at how scientists and start-ups around the world are decoding animal languages. Whales, with their giant mammalian brains, offer one of the most realistic opportunities for this to happen. But what would the consequences of such human-animal interaction be?

We’re about to find out.

What's Inside

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“We are on the verge of a revolution in communicating with these smart, social, otherworldly leviathans. Tom Mustill's riveting reports from the cutting edge of science set my heart pounding! How to Speak Whale is one of the most exciting and hopeful books I have read in ages.” —Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
“Through his highly personal journey and discussions with experts, Tom Mustill conveys the richness of whale song and communication. Most of all we gain immense respect for these giants of the ocean.”—Frans de Waal, New York Times bestselling author of Mama’s Last Hug and Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist
“I loved this book. It will really make you think about the relationship between animals and people.”—Temple Grandin, New York Times bestselling co-author of Animals in Translation and Thinking in Pictures

“Dr. Doolittle wanted to speak to the animals, and many attempts to communicate with non-humans have involved trying to teach them to speak English. The frontier is in meeting other animals where they are, how they live, and for us to understand them by learning their modes of communication. In How to Speak Whale, Tom Mustill takes us farther, much farther, than Dr. Doolittle ever imagined. And he does it with humility and sensitivity that befits the subject.”

Carl Safina, New York Times bestselling author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Beyond Words
How to Speak Whale begins with a massive splash that pulls you right in. Then, the waves of wonder keep rolling over you page after brilliant page, until you reach the end and realize your view of the world, and the animals we share it with, has changed forever.”—Juli Berwald, Author of Spineless and Life on the Rocks
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