The Sea Around Us Author: Rachel Carson / Introduction by Ann H. Zwinger; afterword by Jeffrey S. Levinton / First published in 1989 by Oxford University Press, originally published in New York 1951 / Paperback 250 pages
I grew up spending weekends at my grandparent’s seaside home. It was a time before pollution crept insidiously onto the seafloor. It was a time when we could still watch the fisherfolks drag their nets from the shore and, together with anyone who wants to lend a hand, pull in the day’s catch. The silvery treasures were then divided up, with even the casual helpers getting a couple of pieces to take home. It was a time when my siblings and I could walk around the shore at low tide and search under the briefly exposed rocks for shellfish and fill our little buckets with enough for dinner.
But I would be an adult and living in the urban jungle by the time I discover this little book that made my seaside childhood even more precious. It was actually marine biologist and VSO volunteer Rowan Byrne’s copy and he left it to me as a gift upon leaving the Philippines. And I would be forever grateful for this introduction to such a gifted writer, woman, marine biologist, environmentalist, ecologist, and (for me) a teacher of minds.
“The Sea Around Us” takes science and puts it in a narrative that is clear and empathetic. It is like having a wonderful teacher taking your hand through the mysteries and wonders of the seas and you become emboldened to know more. She shows you things you cannot even imagine, invites you to explore beyond what your eyes see, asks you to delve deeper and become more involved with nature.
Knowledge is sometimes a frightening thing. You cannot claim ignorance anymore, you cannot claim innocence when the time comes that your children ask you what you did to protect our home planet. But knowledge is also empowering, giving you something to work with in search of solutions. What Rachel Carson gave me was inspiration to learn more and courage to appreciate the truth and the responsibility it confers.
It is only with opened eyes and mind that you can see the true beauty and wonder of the natural world around us. Unlike children empowered to experience beauty by their unblemished imagination, adults who have had imagination educated out of them need great books such as this to clear the fog from our minds.
I think it is a generous act that gifted writers share with us their brilliant world, show us the awesome treasures they’ve picked up along their journey. I truly celebrate Rachel Carson and every scientist and writer able to bring readers closer to the world of science and nature.
Carson also wrote “Under the Sea Wind”, ‘The Edge of the Sea”, “Silent Spring”, and the posthumously published “The Sense of Wonder”. Look for these titles in your libraries and your favorite bookshops.