Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas
By Eva Saulitis
Released: January 15th, 2013
Into Great Silence, by Eva Saulitis, is a moving memoir of her time spent in Prince William Sound studying the AT1 Transient pod orcas, better known to the author and reader as the Chugach Transients. Saulitis starts her story by showing the reader exactly how she started her study and how her fascination with the orcas began. Interestingly enough, her first encounter occurred while she was working at a fish hatchery, in which she saw the pod of orcas swimming nearby. Seeing as she was already into the field of biology, her interest grew and – in an amazing stroke of luck – was chosen to help work on a boat called Lucky Star for Craig Matkin, who studied resident orcas. From there on, her love for the animals was fueled and – for her graduate thesis – she decided to study the habits of the Chugach pod. It wasn’t but a couple of years after she started to help Matkin and others that the Exxon Valdez spill occurred, forever changing the Sound and surrounding waters. Into Great Silence is largely focused on the life of the orcas after the fateful spill and how such a disaster affected their lives.
Saulitis tells the reader up front that this will not be a book with a very happy ending. In the prologue, she is already lamenting the great loss of life in the pod and – as we read through the subsequent chapters, Saulitis – with her beautiful and poetic storytelling – is able to instill in the reader love and great respect for the gentle giants of the Sound. By the end of the story, my heart was breaking for the poor animals who – against all odds – still try to live in the Sound to this very day, though their numbers are greatly dwindling. Saulitis herself wonders whether the pod will continue to survive or if there will come a day where she wakes up and discovers that the last of the whales she had come to know and love have perished.
Into Great Silence is a reminder to readers of the beauty and fragility of nature, that one single moment in time can forever alter a way of life that has existed for several thousands of years. It is a stunning, albeit tragic, story of love, loss, and human attempt to right a wrong great done over twenty-four years ago.