Under the Sea Wind

Bookshelf: Under the Sea-Wind

Under the Sea-Wind – Rachel Carson

Under the Sea Wind
Under the Sea Wind

Under the Sea-Wind is the first book in a loose trilogy of books about the ocean, completed by The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. In typical fashion I read the books out of order, but it hardly matters. While The Sea Around Us is concerned with grand, overarching themes of history and oceanography as they relate to the ocean, Under the Sea-Wind describes a year in the life of sea birds, eels, and mackerel. “Sea-Wind” is Carson’s shorthand for the ecosystem encompassing the ocean, rivers, and all life. It is written almost like a story-book, and I think would be enjoyed by a child for the plot elements and drama as much as by an adult for the vivid writing and naturalistic details that Carson includes.

What I loved was that the creatures that Carson writes about – the eel, the mackerel – all encounter man’s work and activity in their realm. Fishermen (purse seine, trawlers and simple artisanal ones) and ships are threats to the mackerel and other fish, and harbours provide a varied, sheltered environment for coming of age. There is no hint, however, of the environmental catastrophes of global warming and overfishing that were beginning even in 1941 when this book was published.

This is an unusual book – like the love child of a nature book and a novel – but a beautiful and fulfilling read. I think you should read The Sea Around Us first, decide if you like Carson’s writing, and then try Under the Sea-Wind.

But how can you not love this writing?

To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be. These things were before ever man stood on the shore of the ocean and looked out upon it with wonder; they continue year in, year out, through the centuries and the ages, while man’s kingdoms rise and fall.

Under the Sea-Wind, Rachel Carson – Foreword, page 3

You can buy the book here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here. Kindle users can go here and here.

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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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