Cover image for The last whalers : three years in the far Pacific with a courageous tribe and a vanishing way of life / Doug Bock Clark.
The last whalers : three years in the far Pacific with a courageous tribe and a vanishing way of life / Doug Bock Clark.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

Physical Description:
xii, 347 pages, [16] pages of unnumbered plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
639.28095986 CLA Book Adult General Collection

On Order



In this "immersive, densely reported, and altogether remarkable first book [with] the texture and color of a first-rate novel" ( New York Times ), journalist Doug Bock Clark tells the epic story of the world's last subsistence whalers and the threats posed to a tribe on the brink.
"An amazing account . . . Spectacular and deeply empathetic." --Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm. "A monumental achievement." --Mitchell Zuckoff, 13 Hours. "A true work of art . . . Lyrically written and richly observed." -- Michael Finkel, The Stranger in the Woods. "An extraordinary feat of reportage and illumination." --Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams . "From the very first lines, I was riveted." --Robert Moor, On Trails . "Intimate and moving." --Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River . "Remarkable, gorgeously written." --Bronwen Dickey, Pit Bull .
On a volcanic island in the Savu Sea so remote that other Indonesians call it "The Land Left Behind" live the Lamalerans: a tribe of 1,500 hunter-gatherers who are the world's last subsistence whalers. They have survived for half a millennium by hunting whales with bamboo harpoons and handmade wooden boats powered by sails of woven palm fronds. But now, under assault from the rapacious forces of the modern era and a global economy, their way of life teeters on the brink of collapse.
Award-winning journalist Doug Bock Clark, one of a handful of Westerners who speak the Lamaleran language, lived with the tribe across three years, and he brings their world and their people to vivid life in this gripping story of a vanishing culture. Jon, an orphaned apprentice whaler, toils to earn his harpoon and provide for his ailing grandparents, while Ika, his indomitable younger sister, is eager to forge a life unconstrained by tradition, and to realize a star-crossed love. Frans, an aging shaman, tries to unite the tribe in order to undo a deadly curse. And Ignatius, a legendary harpooner entering retirement, labors to hand down the Ways of the Ancestors to his son, Ben, who would secretly rather become a DJ in the distant tourist mecca of Bali.
Deeply empathetic and richly reported, The Last Whalers is a riveting, powerful chronicle of the collision between one of the planet's dwindling indigenous peoples and the irresistible enticements and upheavals of a rapidly transforming world.

Author Notes

Doug Bock Clark is a writer whose articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Times Magazine , The Atlantic , National Geographic , GQ , Wired , Rolling Stone , The New Republic , and elsewhere. He won the 2017 Reporting Award, was a finalist for the 2016 Mirror Award, and has been awarded two Fulbright Fellowships, a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and an 11th Hour Food and Farming Fellowship. Clark has been interviewed about his work on CNN, BBC, NPR, and ABC's 20/20 . He is a Visiting Scholar at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this fascinating debut, journalist Clark offers an account of a small hunter-gatherer society, the Lamalerans, devoted to whaling on the remote Indonesian island of Lembata. On his first visit to the Lamalerans' village in 2011, Clark realized the Ways of the Ancestors-"a set of whaling and religious practices handed down through the generations"-still defined indigenous life there. Wondering how much longer these ancient traditions could last, Clark returned to Lembata several times in subsequent years, aiming to "immerse myself as deeply as possible in the tribe." To that end, he hunted, wove ropes, spearfished, attended ceremonies, and bartered at the village market alongside the Lamalerans. With accessible and empathetic prose, Clark profiles the people he met there, such as Yonanes "Jon" Demon Hariona, a young man who aspires to become a "lamafa," or harpooner, his society's highest honor, yet also toys with the idea of seeking "a richer and easier life elsewhere," away from his community. By exploring personal conflicts like Jon's, Clark creates a thoughtful look at the precariousness of cultural values and the lure of modernization in the developing world. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

The Lamaleransp. xi
Mapsp. xiv
A Note on the Textp. xix
Prologue: The Apprentice's Lessonp. 3
Part 1 1994-2014
1 The Lamaleran Odysseyp. 11
2 At Play in the Graveyard of Whalesp. 35
3 The Child-Eating Eel and the Curse of the Black Goatp. 65
4 The Cleansing of Harmful Languagep. 96
5 This, My Son, Is How You Kill a Whalep. 121
6 The Laughterp. 154
7 The Way of the Lamafap. 173
Part 2 2015
8 A New Yearp. 195
9 Nekatp. 209
10 The Marriagep. 223
11 In the Middle of the Typhoon of Lifep. 242
Part 3 2016
12 The New Kéna Pukãp. 267
13 Against the Leviathanp. 284
Epiloguep. 309
About This Projectp. 315
Acknowledgmentsp. 321
Notesp. 323
Glossaryp. 345