Atlas of Oceans

Bookshelf: Atlas of Oceans

Atlas of Oceans – John Farndon

Atlas of Oceans
Atlas of Oceans

I confess that I was not totally enamoured of this book when I started reading it. It seemed overly simplistic, but by the time I finished it I realised that its author had neatly summarised both the wonder and variety of the world’s oceans, and the threats facing them from human activity.

Boasting a foreword by Carl Safina, whose most well-known book is Song for the Blue Ocean, the book is written by John Farndon, a prolific children’s author, and published by Yale University Press. Farndon is British, as is evidenced by his assertion, during a discussion of the warming effect that the Gulf Stream current has on the north Atlantic ocean, that Great Britain has a very pleasant climate. No one else – except perhaps an Inuit – would make such a claim.

Farndon’s credentials as a science writer for children make this volume a pleasure to read – he deals with wide ranging and fairly complex topics, but in a completely understandable way. The book is well illustrated with photographs (some – such as ones of a row of narwhal and a calving ice shelf, of dubious quality), diagrams and maps. The sections each cover two facing pages, so it’s quick to dip into and finish reading a section before bed (for example)!

Special sections focusing on particular habitats (such as coral reefs or the ice), wildlife (I was particularly charmed by the highly endangered vaquita) and issues (mainly related to conservation) are spread throughout the book. Farndon lays the groundwork for a basic understanding of our oceans by covering concepts such as ocean tides, currents and physical oceanography, and then moves on to specific sections on each of the world’s oceans. He also writes about the major seas, such as the ones in Europe and the South China Sea.

This isn’t a long or complex book – it’s under 250 pages long – but comes with a glossary, a list of endangered species (including their status of endangerment and scientific name), suggestions for further reading, and contact details for a long list of ocean conservation organisations. It’s the kind of book that I will dip into frequently – there are some useful photographs (one of the marks left on the seabed by bottom trawling fishing boats springs to mind) and maps (I liked the one showing the whole 2% of the world’s oceans that are in marine protected areas – MPAs) and excellent coverage of the overfishing problem facing us today. Also dealt with are oil spills, whaling, global warming, coral reef and ice shelf destruction due to warming of the oceans, dead zones that result from fertiliser runoff into the sea, and anything else you can think of that impacts the health of our oceans.

An edited extract from the book can be found here, along with a magnificent photo of a basking shark. I recommend it, and it’s suitable and accessible for anyone from a precocious ten year old and up. It’s the sort of book you could give to someone who doesn’t know much about or care particularly for ocean matters, and it would bring them right up to date (and probably make them care).

You can buy the book here if you are in South Africa, and here if you’re not.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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