Gordon Chaplin's father was a seemingly happy-go-lucky, charismatic adventurer who married a wealthy heiress and transformed himself into the author of a landmark scientific study, Fishes of the Bahamas. This book was published by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, one of America's most esteemed scientific institutions. As a young boy, the author took part in collecting specimens for his father. Fifty years later, he was asked to join a team studying the state of sea life in the Bahamian waters where he grew up, as measured against his father's benchmark.
The first of the sea changes presented in this eloquent book stems from climate change and is the drastic transformation of ocean life due to global warming. The second is his father's miraculous transformation from playboy into scientist. And the third involves the author's own complicated relationship with his parents, in particular his father, as he grew older and assumed the part of prodigal son. Fifty years later, returning to his childhood home, he delves into the mysteries of his father's life and the impossibility of ever truly recovering the past or returning home.
Gordon Chaplin was a journalist with Newsweek, the Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post and is the author of several books, including Dark Wind: A Survivor's Tale of Love and Loss. Since 2003 he has been a research associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City and Hebron, New York.
"Not since Jacques Cousteau has anyone brought us the sense of the ocean as our home [...] Far more than a science book."
– San Francisco Book Review
"Rarely are environmental stories so intimately personal and readable [...] Chaplin's book nonetheless packs a philosophical punch – a marine version of Aldo Leopold's 'land ethic': If we let our natural ecosystems go to waste, we may realize too late that we have no home to return to."
– Chicago Tribune
"A fascinating book on many levels."
– Journal of Diving History
"In combining cherished recollections of his upbringing by a playboy turned scientist father with revelations from the Academy's diving team about climate change–related underwater devastation, Chaplin sounds a very distinctive environmental warning that will affect his readers on many levels."
"Gordon Chaplin's new book is a fascinating read. It is both a gruesome memoir and an intriguing account of a science expedition. I loved it. Buy it and put some fun in your life."
– Jim Harrison, author of The River Swimmer and other books
"With stunning nautical, observational, and narrative skill, Gordon Chaplin has created a uniquely personal and intimate portrait [...] An inviting, threatening, and richly informative tale of rarely observed fish community structures in the Bahamas, Full Fathom Five is also an immensely moving recollection of Chaplin's ultimately triumphant relationship with his daring, difficult father."
– Thomas Byrne Edsall, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and author of The Age of Austerity
"A unique picture of the effects of climate change. Readers aware of the abuse of our marine environments will find the conclusions as well as the techniques of their study most interesting. Finally, let me repeat one of my favorite encomiums for a book: 'It's a good read!'"
– Stan Waterman, International SCUBA Diving Hall of Fame
"Gordon Chaplin's wonderfully written account of updating [his father Charles's and Jim Bohlke's] work fifty years later is not only a significant scientific contribution in its own right but the touching tribute of a son's ultimately successful quest to shoulder his father's important legacy."
– Dr. John E. Randall, Senior Ichthyologist Emeritus, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii
"Like donning a dive mask and entering a tropical world of color, clarity, and mystique, opening Full Fathom Five is a gateway into another world [...] . A must read!""
– Dr. Carole Baldwin, Curator of Fishes, Smithsonian Institution
"Gordon Chapin dives into the past, present, and future of the ocean with eloquence, deep personal insight, and a message relevant for all people everywhere. With care, there is hope that the reefs and fishes that abounded in the Bahamas half a century ago will be as richly diverse and abundant in the seas of the future"
– Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer in Residence
"Gordon Chaplin has given us his inside stories on the many challenges and frustrations of mounting collecting expeditions today and the important scientific insights that the resampling of fishes and coral reef habitats have yielded."
– John G. Lundberg, Chaplin Chair and Curator of Ichthyology, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
"Full Fathom Five is a strange and beautiful specimen pulled up from the deep – part study of fish diversity in the Caribbean, part scientific report on the health of coral reefs threatened by climate change, and part memoir of the author's father, sister, and wife. Together they make a book that is touching and troubling by turns, but always full of life."
– Tom Powers, author of Heisenberg's War