Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea

By: Helen M Rozwadowski

276 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations

Harvard University Press

Paperback | Mar 2008 | #173892 | ISBN-13: 9780674027565
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £18.95 $23/€21 approx
Hardback | Dec 2005 | #152793 | ISBN: 0674016912
Out of Print Details

About this book

By the middle of the nineteenth century, as scientists explored the frontiers of polar regions and the atmosphere, the ocean remained silent and inaccessible. The history of how this changed--of how the depths became a scientific passion and a cultural obsession, an engineering challenge and a political attraction--is the story that unfolds in "Fathoming the Ocean".

In a history at once scientific and cultural, Helen Rozwadowski shows us how the Western imagination awoke to the ocean's possibilities--in maritime novels, in the popular hobby of marine biology, in the youthful sport of yachting, and in the laying of a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The ocean emerged as important new territory, and scientific interests intersected with those of merchant-industrialists and politicians. Rozwadowski documents the popular crazes that coincided with these interests--from children's sailor suits to the home aquarium and the surge in ocean travel. She describes how, beginning in the 1860s, oceanography moved from yachts onto the decks of oceangoing vessels, and landlubber naturalists found themselves navigating the routines of a working ship's physical and social structures.

"Fathoming the Ocean" offers a rare and engaging look into our fascination with the deep sea and into the origins of oceanography--origins still visible in a science that focuses the efforts of physicists, chemists, geologists, biologists, and engineers on the common enterprise of understanding a vast, three-dimensional, alien space.

'Fathoming the Ocean' will clearly be welcomed as a serious contribution by historians of science, technology, and maritime culture. And in addition, as the foreword by marine biologist Sylvia Earle underscores, the story is also of immediate relevance to anyone who wonders when and how we came to understand--as we now urgently do--the ocean's importance to our blue planet.
- Alistair Sponsel, Science

"An important academic contribution to the history of one of the most romantic branches of nineteenth-century science and a perceptive commentary on the social and cultural background from which modern observational oceanography sprang."
- Richard Shelton, Times Literary Supplement"


Foreword by Sylvia Earle 1. Fathoming the Fathomless 2. The Undiscovered Country 3. Soundings 4. A Sea Breeze 5. Dredging the Moon 6. Small World 7. Epilogue Notes Acknowledgments Index

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Helen M. Rozwadowski is Assistant Professor of History and Coodinator of Maritime Studies, University of Connecticut at Avery Point.

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