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The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson
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The Sea Around Us (original 1951; edition 2018)

by Rachel Carson (Author)

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1,507129,035 (3.89)70
Published in 1951, The Sea Around Us is one of the most remarkably successful books ever written about the natural world. Rachel Carson's rare ability to combine scientific insight with moving, poetic prose catapulted her book to first place on The New York Times best-seller list, where it enjoyed wide attention for thirty-one consecutive weeks. It remained on the list for more than a year and a half and ultimately sold well over a million copies, has been translated into 28 languages, inspired an Academy Award-winning documentary, and won both the 1952 National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal. This classic work remains as fresh today as when it first appeared. Carson's writing teems with stunning, memorable images--the newly formed Earth cooling beneath an endlessly overcast sky; the centuries of nonstop rain that created the oceans; giant squids battling sperm whales hundreds of fathoms below the surface; and incredibly powerful tides moving 100 billion tons of water daily in the Bay of Fundy. Quite simply, she captures the mystery and allure of the ocean with a compelling blend of imagination and expertise. Reintroducing a classic work to a whole new generation of readers, this Special Edition features a new chapter written by Jeffrey Levinton, a leading expert in marine ecology, that brings the scientific side of The Sea Around Us completely up to date. Levinton incorporates the most recent thinking on continental drift, coral reefs, the spread of the ocean floor, the deterioration of the oceans, mass extinction of sea life, and many other topics. In addition, acclaimed nature writer Ann Zwinger has contributed a brief foreword. Today, with the oceans endangered by the dumping of medical waste and ecological disasters such as the Exxon oil spill in Alaska, this illuminating volume provides a timely reminder of both the fragility and the importance of the ocean and the life that abounds within it. Anyone who loves the sea, or who is concerned about our natural environment, will want to read this classic work.… (more)
Member:Ben.Ring
Title:The Sea Around Us
Authors:Rachel Carson (Author)
Info:Oxford University Press (2018), Edition: 3, 256 pages
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The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson (1951)

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Having first read Silent Spring (Rachel Carson's fourth published book) back in the sixties, I've delved into her other books over the years. The Sea Around Us was Carson's second published book (the first being her 1941 book Under the Sea Wind) and the one that launched her into the public eye and a second career as a writer and conservationist. This book deals with the science of the the sea known at that time, ranging from its primeval beginnings to the time of the book's publication.

Opening paragraph:
"BEGINNINGS are apt to be shadowy, and so it is with the beginnings of that great mother of life, the sea. Many people have debated how and when the earth got its ocean, and it is not surprising that their explanations do not always agree. For the plain and inescapable truth is that no one was there to see, and in the absence of eye-witness accounts there is bound to be a certain amount of disagreement. So if I tell here the story of how the young planet Earth acquired - an ocean, it must be a story pieced together from many sources and containing whole chapters the details of which we can only imagine. The story is founded on the testimony of the earth’s most ancient rocks, which were young when the earth was young; on other evidence written on the face of the earth’s satellite, the moon; and on hints contained in the history of the sun and the whole universe, of star-filled space. For although no man was there to witness this cosmic birth, the stars and the moon and the rocks were there, and, indeed, had much to do with the fact that there is an ocean."

I've found all Rachel Carson's books informative, interesting, and easily readable, even poetic. In understanding our sustaining biosphere better, we might do a better job of leaving a habitable Earth for our children.

As a side thought, I was privileged in my youth to listen to Shoshone elders convey ancient legends, among them how our little blue canoe began as fire, then water, then Turtle Island was formed. These were legends that had been passed down through many thousands of years, and though they were stylistic of the culture I've always wondered how they came by the premise.

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" ~ T. S. Eliot, The Rock, 1934 ( )
  LGCullens | Jun 1, 2021 |
A fascinating look at the oceans of the world – how they were formed, the tides, currents, abysses, undersea mountain ranges, marine life, salts, navigation; nearly every page holds a wealth of information about the greatest part of our planet. Some of the science may be out of date but that doesn't change the fact that this is a classic and eloquent work of environmental literature. ( )
  wandaly | Apr 24, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
1951 was the year when a science book became a best seller. The Sea Around us spent 86 weeks on the New York Times best seller list. Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and therefore a scientist who discovered that she had the talent to write for a popular audience and although her book is packed with scientific information, it also waxes lyrical about the sights, sounds and feel of the sea both above and below the surface. A book written by a lover of sea and seascapes for an audience who want to know more about the 70 percent of the world in which they might paddle, swim, or travel over, but have never thought much about it. This is the opening to her chapter "The Long Snowfall"

'Every part of earth or air or sea has an atmosphere peculiarly its own, a quality or characteristic that sets it apart from all other. When I think of the floor of the deep sea, the single, overwhelming fact that possesses my imagination is the accumulation of sediments'

Sediments! A chapter about sediments? Sediments are usually very important for people with a scientific bent, but Carson with her image of a long snowfall and a chapter that eases her readers through some scientific information manages to make her sediments, mysterious, beautiful and thoroughly absorbing. Right now writing this I have a picture of the flakes of a snow storm falling, falling, one by one, out there on the ocean floor.

The book is more interested in geology, oceanography, meteorology the more physical elements of the oceans rather than individual species of animals that inhabit the sea. It is a book about the environment, but written before Carson made a reputation for being an environmentalist and so doom laden warnings come to us as feint echos in what is a celebration of the wonders of nature. There are chapters on the teeming surface of the oceans and the black sunless depths, There are chapters on the birth of Islands, the hidden lands beneath the sea, The destructive power of the sea and the science of the waves, and finally exploration and exploitation by mankind.

Carson became prominent in the conservation of the environment movement with the publication of Silent Spring in 1962; a book that highlighted the dangers of synthetic pesticides. In the Sea Around Us she talks about climate change, and a warming of the sea, but comes down on the side of cyclic changes in oceanic circulation, therefore a natural phenomenon rather than man made. This is somewhat surprising with the knowledge that we have today of greenhouse gasses and environmental pollution, but one must remember that her book was published in 1951. She wrote a preface to the 1961 edition, but her concern then was the dumping of atomic waste. She died in 1964 a considerable time before concerns were raised on an international level about global warming and mankind's involvement in that process. This is not a book that will supply an up to date scientific story on the latest developments in the world of oceanography a lot has happened since the 1961 edition and some of them have thrown Carsons ideas on the ocean basins as being older than the continents into disrepute: for example the theory of plate tectonics has established that the creation of the sea bed in geological terms is relatively more recent.

I read the Oxford University press 2003 edition which is billed as an Illustrated Commemorative Edition with glossy photographs and a coffee table book feel. There is an introduction and forward which puts Carson's book in context and an afterword by Brian J Skinner a professor of Geology as well as some notes throughout the text that point out scientific developments since the original publication back in 1951. Today we might read Rachel Carsons The Sea Around us for her innovations in producing a science based book that captures some of the poetry of the sea, but it also still provides much basic information. I learn't quite a bit and enjoyed the learning and so a 4.5 star read. ( )
2 vote baswood | Jul 17, 2020 |
551.46
  OakGrove-KFA | Mar 29, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rachel Carsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Edey, Maitland ArmstrongIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eisenstaedt, AlfredPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howe, Katherine L.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Regensdorf, PhilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Published in 1951, The Sea Around Us is one of the most remarkably successful books ever written about the natural world. Rachel Carson's rare ability to combine scientific insight with moving, poetic prose catapulted her book to first place on The New York Times best-seller list, where it enjoyed wide attention for thirty-one consecutive weeks. It remained on the list for more than a year and a half and ultimately sold well over a million copies, has been translated into 28 languages, inspired an Academy Award-winning documentary, and won both the 1952 National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal. This classic work remains as fresh today as when it first appeared. Carson's writing teems with stunning, memorable images--the newly formed Earth cooling beneath an endlessly overcast sky; the centuries of nonstop rain that created the oceans; giant squids battling sperm whales hundreds of fathoms below the surface; and incredibly powerful tides moving 100 billion tons of water daily in the Bay of Fundy. Quite simply, she captures the mystery and allure of the ocean with a compelling blend of imagination and expertise. Reintroducing a classic work to a whole new generation of readers, this Special Edition features a new chapter written by Jeffrey Levinton, a leading expert in marine ecology, that brings the scientific side of The Sea Around Us completely up to date. Levinton incorporates the most recent thinking on continental drift, coral reefs, the spread of the ocean floor, the deterioration of the oceans, mass extinction of sea life, and many other topics. In addition, acclaimed nature writer Ann Zwinger has contributed a brief foreword. Today, with the oceans endangered by the dumping of medical waste and ecological disasters such as the Exxon oil spill in Alaska, this illuminating volume provides a timely reminder of both the fragility and the importance of the ocean and the life that abounds within it. Anyone who loves the sea, or who is concerned about our natural environment, will want to read this classic work.

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