Friday, March 3, 2017

Tides: The science and spirit of the ocean

By Jonathan White

Trinity University Press     2017

335 pages     Nonfiction

I brought Tides with me to read on our vacation in Orange Beach, Alabama. I didn’t get a chance to read it until near the end; after we had pondered the tides for several days. I wish I had read it earlier. While Jonathan White is a writer, he is also a sailor and conservationist, so the scientific narrative about tides is punctuated with stories, illustrations, and pictures. This is not a textbook; Tides is narrative nonfiction, as mesmerizing as the tides it explains.

There are 370,000 miles of coastline around the world and the tides are never the same from place to place—or even in the same place. White says that on the Atlantic Ocean, the tides seem to be governed by the moon, but on the Pacific Ocean, they are governed by the sun. The rhythm of the tide seems to have more to do with planetary motion, which is not simple or regular. “It’s full of eccentricities.” In his journeys of discovery, White found that even the most experienced oceanographers and scientists can be perplexed by the tides. One scientist told him, “I don’t have ‘aha’ moments in this field, only ‘oh god’ moments when I find something that makes no sense.”

The book is filled with these amazing moments—stories, facts, fiction, and myth related to White as well as his own stories and experiences. I found it all fascinating. So, as I sit pondering the Gulf of Mexica for one more day, I know that there are many more mysteries of the sea to be explored. Now, if the dolphins would just return for a farewell visit before we leave tomorrow morning!

Jonathan White’s website. There is a wonderful trailer for the book on the website.

No comments: