Review: The Whale in the Living Room by John Ruthven

 

Title: The Whale in the Living Room

Author: John Ruthven

Published: 14th September 2021, Robinson

Status: Read September 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

“The ocean is by far the largest liveable space on Earth, and hugely exceeds our conception of life’s abundance. It’s average depth is about 3.5km, or 2 miles, and, as is often mentioned, the ocean covers nearly three-quarters of the world.”

It’s unlikely that you’d recognise the author of Whale in the Living Room by name, but you, and millions of others, have likely seen his work. A television producer, John Ruthven is in part responsible for the extraordinary footage seen in almost fifty ocean  life documentaries, including the groundbreaking series’, Blue Planet and Blue Planet II narrated by David Attenborough.

The Whale in the Living Room provides the reader with a behind-the-scenes look at how documentaries like the Blue Planet series is filmed. Ruthven shares his journey’s all over the world to gather footage for what may only be a minute long sequence of television. It takes a huge amount of hard work, risk, money, luck and patience to bring ‘whales into our living rooms’, exposing the amazing variety of life to be found in the ocean, from the enormous to the microscopic, the sublime to the ridiculous, we would otherwise likely never see.

I found Ruthven’s stories to be fascinating, related in a personable tone with flashes of humour. He provides insights not only into the complex logistics of a shoot, but also the subjects themselves, from cuttlefish to blue whales. The only producer to have worked on both Blue Planet I & II, he also touches on the changes he, and others, have witnessed, due to issues such as global warming and plastic pollution.

As I’ve been reading The Whale in the Living Room I’ve been re-watching the Blue Planet documentaries with new appreciation. Available on a multitude of streaming services, if you haven’t watched these, you really should. The images are particularly stunning on a large screen, with the room darkened (though I find Attenborough’s voice can have a somewhat soporific effect). The author also has a YouTube channel (search for Indoona) where you can view some short clips he has captured.

A well-written, informative book, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in marine life and ecology, travel, environmental issues, ocean diving, wildlife photography/videography, or television production. The Whale in the Living Room is fascinating, compelling reading.

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Available from Hachette Australia

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