Books & Literature

Book Review: Humpback Highway, by Vanessa Pirotta

NON-FICTION: Whether you’re a whale lover or you’re simply curious about the underwater world, Humpback Highway will inspire and give you a new respect for these majestic, marine giants.

Whether you are young or old, a scientist, a lover of whales, or just want to learn about these amazing mammals, this book is for you.  

Feature image credit: NewSouth Books

Wow, what a fabulous book. Whether you are young or old, a scientist, a lover of whales, or just want to learn about these amazing mammals, Humpback Highway is the book for you. Doctor Vanessa Pirotta is passionate about all things whale.  She is a wildlife scientist and science communicator. Her research on whales has taken her around the world, including Antarctica and Tonga. She is also the chief scientist on a major illegal wildlife trafficking detection program for the Australian Federal Government.

Humpback Highway is the story of Pirotta’s journey as she learns more about whales, how she can protect them, and her research. This may seem like a fairly dry topic, but Pirotta writes as she speaks, with animated passion. As readers we are drawn into her story and become enthusiastic with her. She tells us about tagging the whales, what they eat, how they communicate and how they reproduce, all in great detail! Did you know the testes of a southern right whale weigh 500kg each?

Pirotta spends most of her time researching the humpback whale and its migration each year along the same route from Antarctica to the eastern coast of Australia. It is thrilling to learn that there are now over 40,000 whales making the journey each year.

We learn about the new technology which allows scientists to listen to the whale song, and plot their migration. Pirotta’s main research in recent years has been the collection of whale snot. She has helped develop a capture mechanism which is attached to a drone. Whale snot is really important to help scientists learn about the health of the whales.

The beauty of Humpback Highway is that it is for anyone. Primary and secondary-school children, parents, grandparents, and those who love our planet will all be able to take something from this book. There are boxes dotted throughout, summarising the main facts, so even if you don’t want to read the entire book, which is not actually very long, there is enough information for even the most reluctant reader.

Pirotta helps us to think about the dark quite recent history when whales were hunted almost to extinction and to consider the great steps now taken to protect them in most waters around the world. Research, science and personal experiences are all covered with passion and palpable excitement. A highly recommended read.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: NewSouth Books
Released: April 2024
RRP: $32.99

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