The Killer Whale Journals: Our Love and Fear of Orcas

Hanne Strager

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023

Agent: Elise Capron

Experience the hauntingly beautiful world of orcas, and discover the stories that unfold when humans enter oceans alongside them.

When intrepid biology student Hanne Strager volunteered to be the cook on a small research vessel in Norway's Lofoten Islands, the trip inspired a decades-long journey into the lives of killer whales?and an exploration of people's complex relationships with the biggest predators on earth. The Killer Whale Journals chronicles the now internationally renowned science writer's fascinating adventures around the world, documenting Strager's personal experiences with orcas in the wild.

Killer whales' incredible intelligence, long life spans, and strong family bonds lead many people to see them as kindred spirits in the sea. But not everyone feels this way?like wolves, orcas have been both beloved and vilified throughout human history. In this absorbing odyssey, Strager traces the complicated relationship between humans and killer whales, while delving into their behavior, biology, and ecology. She brings us along in her travels to the most remote corners of the world, battling the stormy Arctic seas of northern Norway with fellow biologists intent on decoding whale-song, interviewing First Nations conservationists in Vancouver, observing Inuit hunters in Greenland, and witnessing the dismantling of black market "whale jails" in the Russian wilderness of Kamchatka. Through these captivating stories, Strager introduces us to a diverse cast of characters from Inuit elders to Australian Aboriginal whalers and guides us through the world's wild waters, from fjords above the Arctic circle in Norway to the poaching-infested waters off Kamchatka. Featuring astonishing photographs from famed nature photographer and conservationist Paul Nicklen, The Killer Whale Journals reveals rare and intimate moments of connection with these fierce, brilliant predators.


"The Killer Whale Journals provides a fascinating insight into the world of the killer whale, or orca, and our relationship with them. Strager's scientific investigations combined with her love for these magnificent predators will inspire many to help efforts to protect them from the many threats facing them throughout their range." —Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

"A great read. Learning about the different perspectives on killer whales was eye-opening for me. Strager not only educates readers about killer whales in general, but also shows how human perspectives on killer whales change over time. Nature lovers and whale lovers will want to read this book." —Tracie Merrill, Education Curator, The Whale Museum

"The Killer Whale Journals is a page-turner and a passionate account of our troubled and extraordinary relationship with killer whales. These magnificent predators are still feared, persecuted, hunted and targeted with suspicion and hate. But they are also at the heart of incredible collaborative relationships with people. Strager is a gifted storyteller. Whether she's drawing on ancient lore, sharing her experience of a whale steak dinner on a whaling ship or investigating what motivates a small fishing community to save a group of stranded killer whales, she teases out the broader story about our relationship with animals." —Catherine DeNardo, killer whale biologist, writer, and editor

"Hanne Strager is a strong new voice in nature and science writing. Her book is brimming with the kind of personal anecdotes, scientific discoveries, and thrilling adventures that make an entertaining and compelling read. It is an important book too. Killer whales trigger the same mixed emotions that we know from wolves and other large predators. She tackles the controversial issue of how we relate to animals when they collide with human interests with insight, passion and wit. A truly wonderful book." Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World, Mind of the Raven, Why We Run, and The Homing Instinct