Download Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish Audiobook

Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish Audiobook, by John Hargrove Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: John Hargrove Narrator: John Hargrove Publisher: Random House Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2015 ISBN: 9781101926468
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Over the course of two decades, John Hargrove worked with twenty different whales on two continents and at two of SeaWorld’s United States facilities. For Hargrove, becoming an orca trainer fulfilled a childhood dream. However, as his experience with the whales deepened, Hargrove came to doubt that their needs could ever be met in captivity. When two fellow trainers were killed by orcas in marine parks, Hargrove decided that SeaWorld’s wildly popular programs were both detrimental to the whales and ultimately unsafe for trainers.

After leaving SeaWorld, Hargrove became one of the stars of the controversial documentary Blackfish. The outcry over the treatment of SeaWorld’s orca has now expanded beyond the outlines sketched by the award-winning documentary, with Hargrove contributing his expertise to an advocacy movement that is convincing both federal and state governments to act.

In Beneath the Surface, Hargrove paints a compelling portrait of these highly intelligent and social creatures, including his favorite whales, Takara and her mother Kasatka, two of the most dominant orcas in SeaWorld. He includes vibrant descriptions of the lives of orcas in the wild, contrasting their freedom in the ocean with their lives in SeaWorld.  

Hargrove’s journey is one that humanity has just begun to take—toward the realization that the relationship between the human and animal worlds must be radically rethought.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A heart-tugging look at the lives of orca whales in captivity.”


  • “A story of both dread and wonderment…Books such as this have the ability to shine a light into the inner workings of corporate greed and redirect efforts from selling tickets to preserving, nurturing, and enhancing the orcas’ lives.”

    Huffington Post

  • “Hargrove covers both the joy of his own experiences with orcas as well as the case for why such interactions in captivity should end.”

    Scientific American

  • “Blends natural history and corporate indictment into an emotional story about a man changing sides in the argument over human domination of the animal world.”


  • “Hargrove divulges some of the lesser-known, more insidious facts about marine parks: the ways whales are artificially impregnated, how boredom can become their undoing, and that these virtual ‘prisoners in the park’ are subjected to secretive food-deprivation tactics to ensure that they understand ‘that it is best to cooperate’…The lives of trained whales were a living hell. A shocking, aggressively written marine park exposé.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “I highly recommend Beneath the Surface to readers of all ages, including those youngsters about whom Hargrove writes, who want to be just like him when he trained orcas to perform stupid and unnatural tricks. Hargrove is a very courageous man, and his book is open and honest and we should all thank him for taking the time to write it.”

    Marc Bekoff, author of Rewilding Our Hearts

  • “Hargrove’s slight Texas accent gives his criticisms extra power. Although much of his writing centers on the ‘quiet desperation’ faced by orcas in captivity, there’s also information about orca emotions and social hierarchy, his own lifetime fascination with the whales, and life as an orca trainer. His passion is strong, and listeners will feel the emotions in his argument.”


  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A 2015 Amazon Best Books of the Year Selection for Science

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About the Author

John Hargrove has over a decade of experience as a killer whale trainer. His experience spans both SeaWorld of California and SeaWorld of Texas, where he was promoted to the highest ranking senior trainer. Hargrove also has an international reputation, having been a supervisor with MarineLand in the south of France. He resigned his position with SeaWorld in August, 2012, and currently resides in New York City.