Swordfish
by Richard Ellis
University of Chicago Press, 2013
A perfect fish in the evolutionary sense, the broadbill swordfish derives its name from its distinctive bill—much longer and wider than the bill of any other billfish—which is flattened into the sword we all recognize. And though the majesty and allure of this warrior fish has commanded much attention—from adventurous sportfishers eager to land one to ravenous diners eager to taste one—no one has yet been bold enough to truly take on the swordfish as a biographer. Who better to do so than Richard Ellis, a master of marine natural history? Swordfish: A Biography of the Ocean Gladiator is his masterly ode to this mighty fighter.

The swordfish, whose scientific name means “gladiator,” can take on anyone and anything, including ships, boats, sharks, submarines, divers, and whales, and in this book Ellis regales us with tales of its vitality and strength. Ellis makes it easy to understand why it has inspired so many to take up the challenge of epic sportfishing battles as well as the longline fishing expeditions recounted by writers such as Linda Greenlaw and Sebastian Junger. Ellis shows us how the bill is used for defense—contrary to popular opinion it is not used to spear prey, but to slash and debilitate, like a skillful saber fencer. Swordfish, he explains, hunt at the surface as well as thousands of feet down in the depths, and like tuna and some sharks, have an unusual circulatory system that gives them a significant advantage over their prey, no matter the depth in which they hunt. Their adaptability enables them to swim in waters the world over—tropical, temperate, and sometimes cold—and the largest ever caught on rod and reel was landed in Chile in 1953, weighing in at 1,182 pounds (and this heavyweight fighter, like all the largest swordfish, was a female).

Ellis’s detailed and fascinating, fact-filled biography takes us behind the swordfish’s huge, cornflower-blue eyes and provides a complete history of the fish from prehistoric fossils to its present-day endangerment, as our taste for swordfish has had a drastic effect on their population the world over. Throughout, the book is graced with many of Ellis’s own drawings and paintings, which capture the allure of the fish and bring its splendor and power to life for armchair fishermen and landlocked readers alike.

See More
1
Outbound
by William Storandt
University of Wisconsin Press, 2001
Outbound

is the story of two voyages: an Atlantic crossing in the 33-foot cutter

Clarity

, bound for Scotland; and the hard voyage of self-discovery that finally brought Bill Storandt to his life partner.



Storandt’s account of the adventure he had carefully planned with longtime partner Brian Forsyth and their friend Bob soon turns into a white-knuckled sailing tale, as they encounter a fierce storm four hundred miles from the Irish coast that tests their courage and all their sailing skills. The sea story, vividly evoking life in a small boat on a big ocean, is interwoven with Storandt’s flashbacks to his earlier life. Outbound delivers its share of excitement, but it’s also a moving reflection on how circuitous our paths can be, even when the destination is clear and beckoning.

See More
2
Tides of History
by Michael S. Reidy
University of Chicago Press, 2008
In the first half of the nineteenth century, the British sought to master the physical properties of the oceans; in the second half, they lorded over large portions of the oceans’ outer rim. The dominance of Her Majesty’s navy was due in no small part to collaboration between the British Admiralty, the maritime community, and the scientific elite. Together, they transformed the vast emptiness of the ocean into an ordered and bounded grid.  In the process, the modern scientist emerged. Science itself expanded from a limited and local undertaking receiving parsimonious state support to worldwide and relatively well financed research involving a hierarchy of practitioners.
Analyzing the economic, political, social, and scientific changes on which the British sailed to power, Tides of History shows how the British Admiralty collaborated closely not only with scholars, such as William Whewell, but also with the maritime community  —sailors, local tide table makers, dockyard officials, and harbormasters—in order to systematize knowledge of the world’s oceans, coasts, ports, and estuaries.  As Michael S. Reidy points out, Britain’s security and prosperity as a maritime nation depended on its ability to maneuver through the oceans and dominate coasts and channels. The practice of science and the rise of the scientist became inextricably linked to the process of European expansion.
See More
3
The Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide 2005-2006
edited by David Helvarg
Island Press, 2005

A new environmental movement is emerging to help combat threats to America's oceans and coasts, with hundreds of local and regional groups as well as dozens of national and international organizations being formed. The Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide represents a comprehensive guide to this new "Blue Movement."

This one-of-a-kind new reference details more than 2,000 organizations and institutions that are working to understand, protect, and restore our ocean and coastal areas. For each entry, the book gives contact information including phone and fax numbers, email addresses, web addresses and a brief description of program areas of interest. Along with the state-by-state listings of groups, the directory includes three detailed sections that identify relevant government agencies, academic marine programs, and marine and coastal parks and protected areas.

To be published biennially, The Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide is a vital new resource for anyone interested in the growing community of people working to protect and restore our coastal lands and waters.

See More
4
Stung!
by Lisa-ann Gershwin
foreword by Sylvia Earle
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Our oceans are becoming increasingly inhospitable to life—growing toxicity and rising temperatures coupled with overfishing have led many marine species to the brink of collapse. And yet there is one creature that is thriving in this seasick environment: the beautiful, dangerous, and now incredibly numerous jellyfish. As foremost jellyfish expert Lisa-ann Gershwin describes in Stung!, the jellyfish population bloom is highly indicative of the tragic state of the world’s ocean waters, while also revealing the incredible tenacity of these remarkable creatures.
 
Recent documentaries about swarms of giant jellyfish invading Japanese fishing grounds and summertime headlines about armadas of stinging jellyfish in the Mediterranean and Chesapeake are only the beginning—jellyfish are truly taking over the oceans. Despite their often dazzling appearance, jellyfish are simple creatures with simple needs: namely, fewer predators and competitors, warmer waters to encourage rapid growth, and more places for their larvae to settle and grow. In general, oceans that are less favorable to fish are more favorable to jellyfish, and these are the very conditions that we are creating through mechanized trawling, habitat degradation, coastal construction, pollution, and climate change.
 
Despite their role as harbingers of marine destruction, jellyfish are truly enthralling creatures in their own right, and in Stung!, Gershwin tells stories of jellyfish both attractive and deadly while illuminating many interesting and unusual facts about their behaviors and environmental adaptations. She takes readers back to the Proterozoic era, when jellyfish were the top predator in the marine ecosystem—at a time when there were no fish, no mammals, and no turtles; and she explores the role jellies have as middlemen of destruction, moving swiftly into vulnerable ecosystems. The story of the jellyfish, as Gershwin makes clear, is also the story of the world’s oceans, and Stung! provides a unique and urgent look at their inseparable histories—and future.

See More
5
Fathoming the Ocean
by Helen M ROZWADOWSKI
Harvard University Press, 2005
By the middle of the nineteenth century, as scientists explored the frontiers of polar regions and the atmosphere, the ocean remained silent and inaccessible. The history of how this changed--of how the depths became a scientific passion and a cultural obsession, an engineering challenge and a political attraction--is the story that unfolds in Fathoming the Ocean.
See More
6
Sperm Whales
by Hal Whitehead
University of Chicago Press, 2003
Famed in story as "the great leviathans," sperm whales are truly creatures of extremes. Giants among all whales, they also have the largest brains of any creature on Earth. Males can reach a length of sixty-two feet and can weigh upwards of fifty tons.

With this book, Hal Whitehead gives us a clearer picture of the ecology and social life of sperm whales than we have ever had before. Based on almost two decades of field research, Whitehead describes their biology, behavior, and habitat; how they organize their societies; and how their complex lifestyles may have evolved in this unique environment. Among the many fascinating topics he explores is the crucial role that culture plays in the life of the sperm whale, and he traces the consequences of this argument for both evolution and conservation. Finally, drawing on these findings, Whitehead builds a general model of how the ocean environment influences social behavior and cultural evolution among mammals as well as other animals.

The definitive portrait of a provocative creature, Sperm Whales will interest animal behaviorists, conservationists, ecologists, and evolutionary biologists as well as marine mammalogists.

See More
7
Seasick
by Alanna Mitchell
University of Chicago Press, 2009

We have long lorded over the ocean. But only recently have we become aware of the myriad life-forms beneath its waves. We now know that this delicate ecosystem is our life-support system; it regulates the earth’s temperatures and climate and comprises 99 percent of living space on earth. So when we change the chemistry of the whole ocean system, as we are now, life as we know it is threatened.

In Seasick, veteran science journalist Alanna Mitchell dives beneath the surface of the world’s oceans to give readers a sense of how this watery realm can be managed and preserved, and with it life on earth. Each chapter features a different group of researchers who introduce readers to the importance of ocean currents, the building of coral structures, or the effects of acidification. With Mitchell at the helm, readers submerge 3,000 feet to gather sea sponges that may contribute to cancer care, see firsthand the lava lamp–like dead zone covering 17,000 square kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico, and witness the simultaneous spawning of corals under a full moon in Panama.

The first book to look at the planetary environmental crisis through the lens of the global ocean, Seasick takes the reader on an emotional journey through a hidden realm of the planet and urges conservation and reverence for the fount from which all life on earth sprang.

See More
8
The Black Ocean
by Brian Barker
Southern Illinois University Press, 2011
In The Black Ocean, poet Brian Barker attempts to make sense of some of the darkest chapters in history while peering forward to what lies ahead as the world totters in the wake of human complacence. Unveiled here are ruminations on human torture, the Chernobyl disaster, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and genocide against Native Americans. The ghosts of Lincoln, Poe, and Billie Holiday manifest from pages laden with grim prophecies and catastrophes both real and imagined. These hauntingly intense documentary poems reflect on the past in an attempt to approach it with more clarity and understanding, while offering blistering insight into the state of the world today. Barker touches upon the power of manipulation and class oppression; the depths of fear and the struggle for social justice; and reveals how failure to act—on the parts of both politicians and everyday citizens—can have the most devastating effects of all.

 

Throughout the volume looms the specter of the black ocean itself, a powerful metaphor for all our collective longings and despair, as we turn to face a menacing and uncertain future.

 

Lullaby for the Last Night on Earth

 

When at last we whisper, so long, so lonesome,

 

and watch our house on the horizon

go down like a gasping zeppelin of bricks,

 

we’ll turn, holding hands,

and walk the train tracks to the sea . . . 

 

So sing me that song where a mountain falls

in love with an octopus, and one thousand fireflies

ricochet around their heads,

 

and I’ll dream we’re dancing in the kitchen one last time,

swaying, the window a waystation

of flaming leaves, the dogs shimmying

about our legs,

                            dragging their golden capes of rain . . .

 

 

O my critter, my thistle, gal-o-my-dreams,

 

lift your voice like an oar into the darkness,

for all the sad birds are falling down—

 

Nothing in this night is ours.



 

See More
9
Chasing Science at Sea
by Ellen Prager
University of Chicago Press, 2008
To the average office-dweller, marine scientists seem to have the good life: cruising at sea for weeks at a time, swimming in warm coastal waters, living in tropical paradises. But ocean scientists who go to sea will tell you that it is no vacation. Creature comforts are few and the obstacles seemingly insurmountable, yet an abundance of wonder and discovery still awaits those who take to the ocean. Chasing Science at Sea immerses readers in the world of those who regularly go to sea—aquanauts living underwater, marine biologists seeking unseen life in the deep ocean, and the tall-ship captains at the helm, among others—and tells the fascinating tale of what life—and science—is like at the mercy of Mother Nature.

With passion and wit, well-known marine scientist Ellen Prager shares her stories as well as those of her colleagues, revealing that in the field ingenuity and a good sense of humor are as essential as water, sunblock, and GPS. Serendipity is invaluable, and while collecting data is the goal, sometimes just getting back to shore means success. But despite the physical hardship and emotional duress that come with the work, optimism and adventure prompt a particularly hardy species of scientist to return again and again to the sea.

Filled with firsthand accounts of the challenges and triumphs of dealing with the extreme forces of nature and the unpredictable world of the ocean, Chasing Science at Sea is a unique glimpse below the water line at what it is like and why it is important to study, explore, and spend time in one of our planet’s most fascinating and foreign environments.
 
See More
10
Click here to go to the beginning.