Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Whale Guy
Flip Nicklin has spent 30 years looking whales in the eye. His acclaimed photographs have practically defined these massive and graceful creatures to the general public and helped break new ground in marine mammalogy.
Out of his three decades of experience, Nicklin says there are probably 10 moments that really stand out. The day he met Frank. Jumping into a narwhal fight where a young male swam up to him with his tusk angled toward Nicklin and within 18 inches of his chest. The last day of an assignment on sperm whales when he was able to get a picture of a baby. All of these stories and more are included in his new book, Among Giants: A Life with Whales, which showcases his photographs, as well as tells the stories behind them. Throughout the book are highlights of new advances being made in understanding whale behavior and the importance of conservation.
While he has his father to thank for his sea legs, Nicklin's life may not have unfolded this way if not for his mother's steadfast encouragement. When he was into snakes and lizards as a boy, she let him keep them in cages—16 to be exact—in their garage, even though she was deathly afraid of the creatures. When he started getting into free diving, she showed her support even though her father, a construction diver, died in a diving accident.
These days, diving and taking pictures are "still a big kick" for Nicklin, but he also has become part of the research effort. He went back to Hawaii in the mid-1990s, and in 2001, he and Darling, along with their colleague Meagan Jones, started the nonprofit Whale Trust. The goal is to promote and conduct research on whales and the marine environment, and to develop educational programs based on that research. In the winter, more than 10,000 humpbacks pass through the warm, clear water around Hawaii, making it an ideal place for research.
See more of Charles "Flip" Nicklin's work at www.mindenpictures.com. and flipnicklin.com. His book Among Giants is available at major bookstores everywhere, online and as an iPad app.
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