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Whale whisperers

11 London co-founder and director, Mark Cook, writes about his fascination with whales, in celebration of World Ocean Day.

image: sperm whale and a free diver

As a child I’d beg to be taken to the Natural History Museum to see the scale model of the blue whale. Each visit, as I got closer to the room, I’d have the same sense of fear and wonder. It was that inimitable feeling of being tiny in the presence of a vast creature – exciting and terrifying.

It was reading a book called 'Whale Nation' by Heathcote Williams that made me first want to work with charities. The more I read and thought about these animals, the more I realised that humanity shares the planet. For me, they tell us so much about what it is (and what it is not) to be human.

Ever since whales captured our collective imagination, we’ve tried to understand them as much as we can. We’ve learned individual pods have their own languages and name their young, whilst bottlenose dolphins can recognise themselves in the mirror, use tools, and play games.

However, there’s much about these animals that lies beyond our human centric understanding of intelligence. It’s possible that they have a ‘collective conscience’ amongst families, making their social bonds even stronger than human ones. We can’t know for certain, but this could explain the tragic phenomena of mass beachings, or last year’s 17-day protest by a mother orca, following the death of her calf.

Whilst our species will never fully understand each other, I think it’s the combination of familiarity and mystery that makes human abuse of whales so horrific – whether it be hunting them, or keeping them in captivity for our entertainment. The more I read, the more I felt compelled to work in a sector that would protect them.

Seeing ‘Whale Whisperers’ by Anuar Patjane Floriuk brought back that childhood feeling. The sheer scale of the whales, vastness of the black ocean, and the divers like astronauts in empty space, reawakened that feeling of awe. They remind us that although we have a huge impact on the world, we’re not as important as we like to think. The fear and majesty that whales inspire is a reminder of humanity’s place in the universe, and puts our lives in perspective.

About 11 London

11 London is an advertising and communications agency, based in leafy West London. We work in the areas of health and humanity - with organisations, brands or products that improve or prolong life. To learn more about 11 London, please contact:

Mark Cook at


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