It’s an empathetic, even intimate account, but not a dewy-eyed one. Clark makes clear that the tribe kill whales to survive, and not callously, for they view them as reincarnations of their ancestors. He is admiring of the co-operative approach of the Lamalerans, the sharing of the catch with those unable to fish. But he also records violence by men against female relations, and reports that older men sometimes strike wayward sons with the severed tails of whiptail stingrays, “a punishment that hurt all the worse owing to the toxin in the tail’s barbs”...Now and then, as if fearful that he’s becoming repetitive, he succumbs to inelegant variation, so that what is a whale in one sentence becomes a leviathan in the next, and a church turns into a rectory. He shouldn’t have worried: The Last Whalers is never dull – it’s a wonderful book
[Doug Bock Clark] shows us this outpost in all its aspects, a village simultaneously enhaloed and smelling of fish. He relishes queasy details — messes of rays’ brains, fish-eye snacks — and the plangently attenuated, such as the Spear of the Dragon which once promised victory in battle, but is now a rusty walking-stick... His unjaded Lamalerans are more admirable than westerners — angst-haunted, he aspires to be ‘a little less American’ — still thinking in cycles and generations, seeing benefits as gifts from gods rather than human rights. He badly wants to believe community can be reconciled with opportunity, and conservationists can come to see very human folk ways as wholly natural evolutions. To him, the jets overflying the archipelago emblematise uncertain escape, looking like harpoons with rope contrails —projectiles launched into space without anyone knowing where they’ll land... The Last Whalers should serve similarly as a tribute to this tribe, and all the others, foundering in or riding out the ‘typhoon of life’.