June 2024: The Oceans

This month we’re taking a deep dive into the oceans beginning with a classic from Rachel Carson. James Bradley brings us up to date with the latest science and follows the social and political tides that are shaping our oceans today. If you want to feel the salt on your skin, take flight with Adam Nicolson’s seabirds or lose yourself in a labyrinth of tiny islands with Amitav Ghosh’s absorbing saga. Plus a thrilling young adult novel and a beautiful tale of a life-changing whale encounter for younger readers.

Non-Fiction

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

Author of the iconic Silent Spring, marine biologist Rachel Carson is at her lyrical best as she tells us the history of the oceans, from their creation to what she imagined their future might hold. Published over seventy years ago, The Sea Around Us remains one of the most influential books about the natural world and though written well before the theory of plate tectonics changed our understanding of the physical backdrop to the oceans, it is still a prophetic account, alerting readers to a future climate crisis and warning of the fragility and centrality of oceans and the life within them.

The Sea Around Us, is the second book in Carson’s sea trilogy, establishing her as a well-loved author who combines poetic prose with a scalpel-sharp scientific mind.

Deep Water: The World in the Ocean by James Bradley

A vast journey spanning the breadth, depths, past, present and future of the oceans from their evolution and science, to their exploration and exploitation. Woven through with mystery, wisdom and wonder, Deep Water explores humankind’s complex relationship with the oceans along with an uncompromising view of the environmental catastrophe unfolding, but it is also suffused with the glories of the ocean and alert to the extraordinary efforts of the scientists and researchers whose work helps us understand its secrets. Immense in scope but also profoundly personal, it offers vital new ways of understanding humanity’s place on our planet, and shows how the oceans might yet save us all. Compassionate and urgent, Bradley’s vivid writing brings the oceans alive and reminds us of what we are at risk of losing.

A Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson

In this engaging book, the reader takes flight through the lives of ten species of seabird. Nicloson translates data and findings from the latest scientific research into compelling stories, combining them with intimate portraits gleaned from the thousands of hours he has spent absorbed in the lives of these astonishing seabirds. They are master navigators, thriving in the most spectacular and demanding environments on the planet. Nicolson’s prose let’s you feel the lift of the wind as the birds smell and forage their way across the breadth of the oceans.

The Seabird’s Cry is a celebration of the only creatures at home in the air, on land and on the sea. These birds see it all and the book carries a warning: extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony will this century become a memory.

Rewilding the Sea: How to Save our Oceans by Charles Clover

This hopeful book celebrates what happens when we step aside and let nature repair the damage. Whether it is the overfishing of bluefin tuna across the Atlantic, the destruction of coral gardens by dredgers in Lyme Bay or the restoration of oysters on the East Coast of America, Charles Clover chronicles how determined individuals are proving that the crisis in our oceans can be reversed, with benefits for both local communities and entire ecosystems.

Trawling and dredging create more CO2 than the aviation industry, damaging vast areas of our continental shelves and preventing them them from soaking up carbon. Glover explains how we need to fish in different ways, if we fish at all. Rewilding the Sea gives us a positive vision of how we can mitigate climate change and restore the biodiversity in our oceans.

Cookin’ Up A Storm: Sea Stories and Vegan Recipes from Sea Shepherd’s Anti-Whaling Campaigns by Laura Dakin

Not just a cookbook but stories too from the crew of Sea Shepherd’s former flagship, Steve Irwin, as they scour the Antarctic Ocean searching for the Japanese whaling fleet. The beating heart of every ship is the galley and chief cook Laura Dakin gives us a unique glimpse into the world of activists working in one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Laura’s day begins at 6am watching the sunrise from the ship’s rails as the ovens warm. Feeding the 50 hungry crew members is a responsibility Laura doesn’t take lightly and she shares with us the eclectic collection of quirky recipes they use to boost morale, such as Radical French Toast, Oceangoing Onion Pie and Wicked Wine-Soaked Mushrooms. Alongside practical tips for making the perfect bread, are beautiful photographs of the food as well as action shots of the ship, interspersed with stories of wildlife watching and the dangers of confronting whaling vessels on the high seas.

Fiction

Ice Crash: Antarctica by Lynda Engler

A mother and scientist trapped in an earthquake-ravaged Antarctica. A daughter fleeing rising waters in Florida. A father and son escaping tidal waves in Boston.

When an earthquake sends the Thwaites glacier crashing into the ocean, the world begins a sudden, violent transformation. Kathryn, a seismologist wintering in Antarctica’s McMurdo base, must survive the crumbling continent after discovering unprecedented seismic activity. Meanwhile, her family struggles to escape raging tsunamis and violently rising global seas halfway across the world.

Can Kathryn and her family find their way back together when the earth itself revolts beneath their feet and the oceans between them expand?

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Off the easternmost corner of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans, where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. Piya Roy, a young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this lush, treacherous landscape in search of a rare species of river dolphin and enlists the aid of a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this isolated corner of the world that exact a personal toll as fierce as the tides.

Books for Younger Readers

The Girl Who Broke The Sea by A. Connors

Part thriller, part sci-fi, this exhilarating Young Adult novel is set in the depths of the ocean, at an experimental deep-sea mining rig. It follows Lily, a teen who’s been kicked out of school for her destructive behaviour. But when she ends up at the mining rig with her mother, her story leads to a shocking discovery.

The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold

In this enchanting children’s novel, Rio has been sent to live in California with a grandmother he barely knows while his mum is in hospital back home. Alone and adrift, the only thing that makes him smile is joining his new friend Marina on her dad’s whale watching trips. That is until an incredible encounter with White Beak, a gentle giant of the sea changes everything. But when White Beak goes missing, Rio must set out on a desperate quest to find his whale and somehow save his mum.

Perfect for readers of 8+, and beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold.

Poetry

Poem of the Month

Plastiglomerate by Tim Cresswell

All-purpose cobalt polypropylene rope
sluiced overboard by Tom     ten days out

with the tuna fleet     missing Meg
and local radio     ground down shells

clams and cowries     orange-lipped lava flows
the toothbrush Esme shared before she spat

foam into the breakers     bleached
pummelled coral     thin plastic forks

from when you barbecued
hot dogs on driftwood fire     fucked

on the forest shore     shared photos of your children
abraded black basalt     green beans of olivine

the chewed blue cap of the one-buck biro
that leaked in the heat of my pocket

forest fire     twenty-three percent contained
fifty-five gallon polydrum     ready for rain

This poem by Tim Cresswell is from a collection of the same title published by Penned in the Margins in 2020. The author is a geographer and a poet, his recent work focuses on the human impact on the earth in the midst of environmental disaster and plastic pollution. This book is the third in a trilogy on the subject.

This poem, like others in the collection fuse the vocabulary of science with intimate imagery in a “lyric that telescopes from the vast to the cellular…” It is both a powerful representation of this phenomenon and yet brings us up close to human actions with compassion “the chewed blue cap of the one-buck biro/that leaked in the heat of my pocket.”

In the end notes Cresswell informs us, “A plastiglomerate is a rock that forms when plastic is melded with shells, sand and other sedimentary material by fire.” Reppatch.com report, “Assuming that up to 2% of the global plastic produced from 1950 to 2013 enters and accumulates in the ocean, it is thought that there are 86 million tons of plastic marine litter stocks in the world’s oceans as of the end of 2013, and some of them cling to the rocks and begin to take a permanent place in the ocean.”

Contact our Librarian if you would like themed book lists to support teaching about climate change.

We’re always looking for contributors to our growing collection of literature to explain and explore the climate and biodiversity emergency. If you’re a writer or poet and would like to share your work or ideas, please get in touch! Contact mattroselibrary@gmail.com for prose or poetsrebelxr@gmail.com for poetry.