Tom Mustill, author of “How To Speak Whale: A Voyage into the Future of Animal Communication”

by | Dec 7, 2022

Tom Mustill—biologist, filmmaker, and author, but forever primarily identified by a 2015 incident: while kayaking with a friend, when a humpback whale breached, landing on the pair—describes the ways this incident has affected him personally and professionally. It’s certainly has altered and consumed his thinking, spurring him to make a documentary a few years ago, “The Whale Detective,” investigating several facets of encounter–Mustill and I discussed that film in a Jan. 2020 “Talking Animals” interview. This clearly transformative experience additionally inspired him to write the recently-published book exploring the history and newest developments in whale science and animal communication, “How To Speak Whale: A Voyage into the Future of Animal Communication.” One bridge between the two projects, Mustill notes, is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which was utilized deep in the latter stages of working on the film (so it wasn’t depicted onscreen), and occupies an important part of the book, notably in the work of Aza Raskin and Britt Selvetelle, which he addressed in this conversation, highlighting their significant inroads in the field of animal communication. We wander onto the topic of anthropomorphism, the subject of considerable debate over the years on this show, and many other arenas, with a palpable shift amidst many scientists away from the dismissive stance. Mustill shares his own hypothesis on this topic, which seems very reasonable; we agree that a simple step toward resolution might be changing the term itself. He fields questions from callers and emailers, and concludes by answering my final query in a conversation about whales and animal communication: If you could talk to “your” whale, what would you ask? His response is eloquent and poetic. (, [Photo: Sam Mansfield]

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Doug Keeling, who was recently named the 2023 Pet Sitter of The Year by Pet Sitters International (PSI), considered the world’s largest educational association for professional pet-sitting and dog-walking business owners. Keeling discusses how he got into pet sitting (and dog walking, launching his company, Bad to the Bone Pet Care, based in Jacksonville, Florida, but with its service area extending into Eastern Tampa. He describes some of the services Bad to the Bone offers, and what he requires of his employees: multiple interviews, background check, extensive training, etc. Keeling also enthuses about his Pet Sitter of the Year award, how much the honor means, given the worldwide recognition, his longstanding PSI membership, and more.,,

COMEDY CORNER: Jim Gaffigan’s “Whales” (DS edit) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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