Troubled Waters

The changing fortunes of whales and dolphins

Sarah Lazarus

Troubled Waters explores the fates of whales and dolphins and how they became intertwined with human history. The story begins over 1000 years ago when hunters first took up harpoons and went to sea in search of the rich rewards of meat, oil and whalebone.

978 0565 09192 7
November 2006
203 x 135 mm
244 pp
8 pp colour section and b&w illustrations
Natural History Museum


This book charts a course through the whaling boom of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the tragic implications of commercial fishing and noise pollution, the controversial keeping of dolphins in captivity, and the current row over Japanese whaling.

Discover the natural history of these fascinating animals in the context of the social, cultural and political developments that have shaped their lives during the unlikely transition from whale-hunting to whale-watching.

Are dolphins really supernaturally intelligent? Are the great whales in danger of extinction? The book dispels common misconceptions and looks at current arguments. This gripping investigation explains just why whales and dolphins became one of the major harvests of the sea, and how humans are destined to affect their future.

Key features

  • Brings the story of humanity’s relationship with whales and dolphins up to date
  • Popular readable science history with wide appeal


Sarah Lazarus is a science and natural history writer who has written extensively for the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. 

She has also contributed to four books from the Rough Guide travel series and numerous television programmes as varied as Mastermind and Survival.


Find out what others think of this book.

"Deeply interesting and refreshing."

The Guardian

"Really intelligent and well-researched....Lazarus is such a good writer."

Wanderlust Magazine

"An incisive, tender and ultimately uplifting book."

The Good Book Guide

"...calmly presented and honest account of the history of mankind's interaction with these most beautiful creatures."

The Ecologist

"thoughtful and concise"

BBC Wildlife Magazine

"An accessible and informative read that never feels dry or academic. It's beautifully illustrated, too."

WDCS Magazine

Whale strandings

Whale strandings and the Natural History Museum

In 1324, all cetaceans (whales and dolphins) were considered ‘Fishes Royal’ and claimed for the Crown. Today the Natural History Museum is part of the National Whale Stranding Recording Scheme to which all stranded whales in the UK should be reported, alive or dead. 

A surprisingly wide range of species have been found in UK waters including blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), killer whale (Orcinus orca) and beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).

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