Reading the Sea Around Us

the sea around us coverI’m rereading The Sea Around Us, thanks to Overdrive on my phone (check out e-books to your phone and read them without stepping foot out of bed, let alone outside.

While some of the science, some of it, anyway, has changed or advanced (she wrote that only two human beings had ever descended byond the reach of light in the sea, and of course, the technology has advanced so that many others have been able to achieve this feat). But her actual observations are lucid, brilliant, even luminous, and still pertinent today.

She references Matthew Arnold, Joseph Conrad, and Milton in this scientific book about the sea and life within.

The language of science is the language of description, and when it’s well told, it’s strikingly similar to the language of poetry, making strong use of analogy, metaphor-. As a sixth grade science teacher told me once, it isn’t really science until it’s been communicated, and this is what Rachel Carson does with beauty and clarity.

When re-reading The Sea Around Us, I found it helpful to make lists- I made lists of the adjectives she used, and lists of nouns- not for every single paragraph, but just when something particularly struck me.

sea
land
spring
renewal
winter
cold
minerals
floor
rivers
lands
sea creatures
remainsshells
diatom
protoplasm
radiolarian
tissues
pteropod
partical
life
Diatoms
phosphorous
minerals
life
spores
dormant state
environment
sea

long
temperate
surface (waters)
heavy
warmer
rich
continental
streaming
transparent
deeply
warm
rich
new
marine
nutrient
fragile
indispensable
tough
protective
meager necessities

I also copied a few of the metaphor or simile rich passages that particularly caught my inner reading ear:

“So the diatoms hold their place in the winter sea, like seeds of wheat in a field under snow and ice, the seeds from which the spring growth will come.”

It’s a rare science book which has remained meaningful through decades, even in the face of changing knowledge.

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