Great Whales

Paperback - June 2008 - AU $34.95

eBook - June 2008 - eRetailers Google Books Kobo

A detailed account of the seven 'great whales' found in Australian coastal waters.

Whales are mysterious and fascinating creatures. Despite modern technology, their world is still largely unexplored and unknown. They can only be seen, or rather glimpsed, when they are near the sea surface, either from boats, or perhaps from shore, or underwater by divers. They also reach astonishing sizes – the blue whale, for example, can grow to 30 metres in length, equivalent to the height of a six-storey building, and can weigh more than 130 tonnes. + Full description

Seven ‘Great Whales’ are found in the coastal waters surrounding Australia. These include six of the largest baleen whales – blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, sei whale, Bryde’s whale and southern right whale – and the sperm whale, the largest toothed whale.

This book provides a detailed account of these extraordinary mammals. As well as the seven Great Whales, a smaller species – the minke whale – is included because of its special interest to Australians. The book describes whales’ highly specialised mammalian structure and biology, and the history of people’s association with them, at first through legend and wonder, then whaling, and more recently whale watching. It also looks at their past and current status, and the conservation initiatives that are in place to protect them from existing or potential threats.

With both historical and recent photographs, as well as an extensive glossary, Great Whales will be enjoyed by natural history enthusiasts, zoologists and students alike.

- Short description


"This easily readable book is a useful addition to the library of students and whale enthusiasts."
Dr Peter Gill, Victorian Naturalist, February 2010

"John Bannister, a leading international marine mammalogist, has produced a fascinating and readable account of the world’s largest mammals. The book provides a detailed account of these extraordinary and fascinating creatures for the interested layperson along with material for the expert."
Tracey Rogers, Linnean Society of New South Wales Newsletter, No 132, October 2009

"I would recommend the books in the Australian Natural History Series to anyone looking for more general background information on these species."
Samantha S. Wisniewski, The Journal of Wildlife Management Vol 73 May 2009

"What do you want to know about whales? . . . This book will answer your questions in language easily accessible to the lay person . . . I certainly found it fascinating and informative."
Mike Gregson (WA Naturalist News, September 2008)


Paperback | June 2008 | $ 34.95
ISBN: 9780643093737 | 160 pages | 240 x 170 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Colour illustrations

ePDF | June 2008
ISBN: 9780643096196
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • Provides a fascinating and readable account of the largest mammals
  • Written by an expert with many years of field experience


Fascinating creatures
Whaling and its products
Species accounts
Blue whale
Fin whale
Sei whale
Bryde’s whale
Minke whales
Humpback whale
Southern right whale
Sperm whale
Conservation and regulation
The future
Further reading


John Bannister obtained a Zoology degree at Oxford University and was introduced to whales as a whaling inspector on South Georgia, South Atlantic, in 1960–61. After three years as a Research Scientist in the UK, he came to Australia to work with CSIRO on sperm whales caught off Albany, WA. From 1967 he was Curator of Mammals at the WA Museum, and Director from 1975. Since retirement in 1992 he has continued long-term studies on right and humpback whales and more recently on blue whales. A long association with the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee has included two terms as Committee Chair.