cover image FATHOMING THE OCEAN: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea

FATHOMING THE OCEAN: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea

Helen M. Rozwadowski, , foreword by Sylvia A. Earle. . Harvard Univ., $25.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-674-01691-0

In this amiable, in-depth examination of the most critical era for the development of modern oceanography, Rozwadowski devotes her attention to the mid–19th century, when British scientists joined a series of nationally sponsored, years-long, worldwide research cruises to explore the ocean deep. A historian and coordinator of maritime studies at the University of Connecticut, Rozwadowski integrates cultural factors—such as the developing seafaring literary genre, the rise of a moneyed elite with an interest in yachting and the economic and political pressures to develop a transatlantic telegraph cable—with the push to understand the nature of the oceans and convert this unknown environment into a moneymaking center. The two most basic aspects of data collection—calculating how deep the ocean is at various points and determining where various organisms live—presented almost insurmountable technical problems at first. Rozwadowski describes in great detail how sounding and dredging technology evolved so that reasonably accurate data could be acquired. She also discusses how the presence of scientists on British naval vessels helped transform the very nature of the British navy, in part by bringing middle-class sensibilities onboard. With so much technical detail, this book is unlikely to be popular with general readers, but it should do well with maritime buffs. 40 b&w photos. (Mar.)