The Ghosts of Gombe: A True Story of Love and Death in an African Wilderness
University of California Press, April 17, 2018
On July 12, 1969, Ruth Davis, a young American volunteer at Dr. Jane Goodall's famous chimpanzee research camp in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania, East Africa, walked out of camp to follow a chimpanzee into the forest. Six days later, her body was found floating in a pool at the base of a high waterfall. In sweeping detail, The Ghosts of Gombe reveals for the first time the full story of day-to-day life in Goodall's wilderness camp—the people and the animals, the stresses and excitements, the social conflicts and cultural alignments, and the astonishing friendships that developed between three of the researchers and some of the chimpanzees—during the months preceding that tragic event. Was Ruth's death an accident? Did she jump? Was she pushed? In an extended act of literary forensics, Goodall biographer Dale Peterson examines how her death might have happened and explores some of the painful sequelae that haunted two of the survivors for the rest of their lives.
"This brilliant narrative will haunt you. Dale Peterson has brought to life the Gombe of the late 1960s, describing the entwined lives of the chimpanzees and the people studying them. It's a true story of adventure, danger, and sudden death that makes compelling reading."
"Not only does Dale Peterson give us a vivid and insightful account of two years at the most scientifically pivotal field camp in history, but his masterful storytelling reveals both the humans and the chimpanzees at Gombe to be compelling and quirky characters."
"Gombe … becomes more a person than a place. The ridges, valleys, peaks, and streams are the outer body housing insects, fish, snakes, and mammal systems. Changes in one system ripple through the others."
"Jane Goodall has spent a lifetime trying to understand the behaviors and relationships of the apes in Tanzania. With The Ghosts of Gombe, Dale Peterson has attempted to do the same for the people who made her research possible. It is the similarities between these two endeavors that make this book a worthwhile read."
"An impressively informative and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Ghosts of Gombe" is an extraordinary and unique study that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented."
—Midwest Book Review