The Last Whalers
A "magnificent book" (Sebastian Junger) and "monumental achievement" (Mitchell Zuckoff) that tells the epic story of the world's last subsistence whalers and the threats posed to a tribe on the brink "An extraordinary feat of reportage and illumination." --Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams. "From the very first lines, I was riveted." --Robert Moor, On Trails. "A true work of art . . . Lyrically written and richly observed." --Michael Finkel, The Stranger in the Woods. "Intimate and moving." --Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River. "Remarkable, gorgeously written." --Bronwen Dickey, Pit Bull. On a volcanic island in the Savu Sea so remote that other Indonesians call it "The Land Left Behind" live the Lamalerans: a tribe of 1,500 hunter-gatherers who are the world's last subsistence whalers. They have survived for half a millennium by hunting whales with bamboo harpoons and handmade wooden boats powered by sails of woven palm fronds. But now, under assault from the rapacious fores of the modern era and a global economy, their way of life teeters on the brink of collapse.Award-winning journalist Doug Bock Clark, one of a handful of Westerners who speak the Lamaleran language, lived with the tribe across three years, and he brings their world and their people to vivid life in this gripping story of a vanishing culture. Jon, an orphaned apprentice whaler, toils to earn his harpoon and provide for his ailing grandparents, while Ika, his indomitable younger sister, is eager to forge a life unconstrained by tradition, and to realize a star-crossed love. Frans, an aging shaman, tries to unite the tribe in order to undo a deadly curse. And Ignatius, a legendary harpooner entering retirement, labors to hand down the Ways of the Ancestors to his son, Ben, who would secretly rather become a DJ in the distant tourist mecca of Bali.Deeply empathetic and richly reported, The Last Whalers is a riveting, powerful chronicle of the collision between one of the planet's dwindling indigenous peoples and the irresistible enticements and upheavals of a rapidly transforming world.

The Last Whalers Details

TitleThe Last Whalers
Author
ReleaseJan 8th, 2019
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316390620
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Environment, Nature, Anthropology

The Last Whalers Review

  • Wonjun Lee
    January 1, 1970
    The Last Whalers is an absolutely extraordinary work. Clark’s portrayal of the Lamalerans, a hunter-gatherer tribe inhabiting a remote Indonesian island, is both fascinating and moving. He expertly shows how the Lamalerans hunt the largest carnivore in history, the sperm whale, using centuries-old technology. By having lived amongst the tribe across three years, the author is able to describe the hunts in stunning and dramatic detail, with the insight of someone intimately familiar with not only The Last Whalers is an absolutely extraordinary work. Clark’s portrayal of the Lamalerans, a hunter-gatherer tribe inhabiting a remote Indonesian island, is both fascinating and moving. He expertly shows how the Lamalerans hunt the largest carnivore in history, the sperm whale, using centuries-old technology. By having lived amongst the tribe across three years, the author is able to describe the hunts in stunning and dramatic detail, with the insight of someone intimately familiar with not only the mechanics of the process, but also the history, culture, and people of Lamalera. The stories of the Lamalerans themselves are even more gripping--from a young orphaned whaler waiting for his big break to an aging legendary harpooner struggling to understand his son’s resistance to the traditional way of life. They bravely stand up to the forces of modernization, largely refusing modern technology that would make the hunts easier and far less dangerous, and relying on bartering and gift-giving instead of paper currency. They hold on to the ways of their ancestors, believing that their tradition--however inconvenient--contains their essence, and that by giving it up, they may lose what it means for them to live. The Last Whalers reminds us to consider what we may be losing as we welcome the latest technology and conveniences with open arms. As modernization and globalization threaten the Lamaleran way of life, Clark richly illustrates how they navigate balancing tradition and progress in a way both exotic and familiar. No doubt, the ways of the Lamalerans are vanishing, as are those of thousands of other indigenous people around the world. The Last Whalers details the lives and culture of a fascinating tribe while also provoking us to contemplate where we come from and what may be lost without a conscious effort. The forces of globalization, for better or worse, are unstoppable. But The Last Whalers helps us pause to celebrate the diversity and resilience of humanity that the Lamalerans exemplify. Reading it was an incredibly moving--and much needed--journey.
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    Remarkable. Clark paints a vivid and unflinching portrait of life for a community in Indonesia that is - in ways large and small - wrestling with their hunter-gatherer past and an encroaching modern culture. Rather than romanticize the indigenous for its own sake (as many Westerners seem prone to), Clark allows the community to share their own multi-faceted views on their lives...as they were, as they are, and as they imagine them to be. A true accomplishment.
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  • Liana
    January 1, 1970
    This is a rich and wonderfully crafted book. Clark does an excellent job of laying out the intricacies of the tribe's history, blending of local beliefs and Catholicism, personal relationships, and factors pushing individual people and larger change. There is a lot of detail, but he creates a story that allowed me to still keep track of all the players and micro and macro scales described. Certain situations were painted with such amazing detail I could see the hue of the water blending into tha This is a rich and wonderfully crafted book. Clark does an excellent job of laying out the intricacies of the tribe's history, blending of local beliefs and Catholicism, personal relationships, and factors pushing individual people and larger change. There is a lot of detail, but he creates a story that allowed me to still keep track of all the players and micro and macro scales described. Certain situations were painted with such amazing detail I could see the hue of the water blending into that of the sky, the baby flying fish zipping away from the spray of the jonson boat. Clark's level of dedication to the town, it's people, and documenting their story is readily apparent across the entire story and in the note at the end. I found the book fascinating.
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  • Rachel Jackson
    January 1, 1970
    I received The Last Whalers as an advanced readers' copy in exchange for a Goodreads review, and I regret to record that I had to abandon this book about 100 pages into it. I absolutely abhor giving up books before finishing them, and I don't close them for good without serious thought on the matter. But try as I might, I could not engage myself with Doug Bock Clark's writing at all. The idea behind the book was fascinating, and why I entered the Goodreads giveaway for it: a tribal culture in th I received The Last Whalers as an advanced readers' copy in exchange for a Goodreads review, and I regret to record that I had to abandon this book about 100 pages into it. I absolutely abhor giving up books before finishing them, and I don't close them for good without serious thought on the matter. But try as I might, I could not engage myself with Doug Bock Clark's writing at all. The idea behind the book was fascinating, and why I entered the Goodreads giveaway for it: a tribal culture in the Pacific Ocean keeping their traditions of whaling alive amidst the encroachment of white globalized culture. That's the story of many an indigenous culture, and I'm always interested in reading those kinds of stories—mainly to educate myself on other cultures that indeed have faced persecution or radical changes in the face of globalization.But Clark's book was not that book. The emphasis he placed on globalization in the first third of the book was lacking, and that's the part that would have been most interesting to me. Instead, he put far too much detail into the specifics of whaling, which is interesting to some degree, but only if you add context to it. Clark did not. He had a few references to outside cultures—the switch in hunting from row boats to motor boats, the tendency for young people to leave Lamaleran for better, richer lives elsewhere, the influence of television and non-bartered forms of currency—but only fleeting, and he never seemed to connect it enough to the preservation of culture, only the destruction of it. Indeed, there was one line that particularly irked me:“Most of the earth’s indigenous people, more than a third of a billion in all, face the same quandary as Jon: adopt an industrialized lifestyle or remain loyal to their traditions and be disadvantaged in the contemporary world.”Clark seems to have taken the same boring, tired old view that most writers take when they write about indigenous people: it's either black and white, traditional or modern; there is no in-between. But Clark, by merely writing this book, proves that there can indeed be a middle-ground. Cultures can exist in their own ancient traditions as well as in the adaptations they have experienced and been forced to. That's where most indigenous cultures are nowadays, and Clark seems to overlook this entirely for the cliched approach that there are only two ways for indigenous cultures to live. And yet he devoted very little time in the first third of the book to that balance, instead lamenting the death of their culture. I doubt I'll revisit this book later, so as I said, it's with some shame that I post this review now, having not finished the book to adequately review it. But if it's so boring and trite that I had to put it down barely 100 pages in, that's a sign that the book isn't for me.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Clark lives among the Lamalerans, a hunter-gatherer group in Eastern Indonesia. They have merged Catholicism and their own beliefs to interpret a changing world. They are especially identified via their whale hunts and their truly cooperative and democratic way of life. But that lifestyle is under great pressure from the industrialized world.Clark presents a vibrant picture of this world by focusing on several people, men and women, younger and older, traditional and modern. His writing enables Clark lives among the Lamalerans, a hunter-gatherer group in Eastern Indonesia. They have merged Catholicism and their own beliefs to interpret a changing world. They are especially identified via their whale hunts and their truly cooperative and democratic way of life. But that lifestyle is under great pressure from the industrialized world.Clark presents a vibrant picture of this world by focusing on several people, men and women, younger and older, traditional and modern. His writing enables us to feel for these folks and get excited as they go and hunt whales.Clark does opine on the impact the industrial world has on hunter-gatherers and other non-industrialized peoples. Some of this, while accurate and thought provoking, somehow detracts from the overall, well written narrative.It would be nice for Clark to revisit this place in maybe 20 years and tell us how the Lamalerans are doing and what happened to some of the people he introduced us to.
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  • Allie
    January 1, 1970
    The author has the rare gift of weaving together years of stories and collective memories into a flowing, eloquent narrative. By the end of the book, I felt that I really knew the characters, flaws, strengths and all. I can’t wait to read future works by Clark!
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  • Verne
    January 1, 1970
    Great book.
  • Jk
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free advance reading copy of this book via the Goodreads Giveaways program and would like to thank anyone involved in making that happen!I am completely fascinated by indigenous cultures and this book provides a stunning look inside the Lamaleran tribe of whale hunters in Indonesia. It follows the stories of a few families over a period of several years and focuses on how the Lamalerans as a group are struggling with ever encroaching modernization and the subsequent threats to their I received a free advance reading copy of this book via the Goodreads Giveaways program and would like to thank anyone involved in making that happen!I am completely fascinated by indigenous cultures and this book provides a stunning look inside the Lamaleran tribe of whale hunters in Indonesia. It follows the stories of a few families over a period of several years and focuses on how the Lamalerans as a group are struggling with ever encroaching modernization and the subsequent threats to their way of life. The author states in the afterword that he tried to remain in the background of the story as much as possible and I think that he succeeded in this effort. I felt like I really got to know and care for the families depicted in these pages and was struck by how universally human some things are. The fact that I could relate to these people whose lives differ so drastically from mine in almost every aspect is a testament to the power of the writing. There is also an element of breathtaking action/adventure writing to this story. The hunt depictions, particularly the one that the book opens with are so well drawn that I found myself completely caught up in the excitement. Highly recommended!
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent writing and research! Just started a few days ago, but I love the story and history of the whale hunter culture!
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