From Publishers Weekly
Ulanski (The Science of Fly Fishing
) takes readers on a dizzying trip within, afloat and around the Gulf Stream, the mighty oceanic river, powerful enough to be readily seen from space, containing mysterious, scary and tasty creatures: the reclusive, 2,000-pound giant squid; swarms of tentacled, stinging Portuguese man-of-wars and a complex food chain, with tiny drifting phytoplankton (the grasses of the sea) at the bottom and the almost mythic bluefin tuna at the top. The book also depicts human life along the Gulf Stream: Columbus following the trade winds and the North Atlantic gyre to reach the New World; buccaneers and pirates of the Caribbean; Benjamin Franklin, intrigued by the idea of a 'stream' flowing through... the Atlantic Ocean and hoping to speed up mail delivery, measuring and meticulously recording water temperatures on trips back and forth to Europe. Although the potentially urgent issue of the Gulf Stream in relation to climate change is given short shrift, this multifaceted treatment of the blue god offers something for almost every kind of ocean lover. (Sept.)
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Most of us think the Gulf Stream is a current in the Atlantic that is responsible for Europe’s mild climate. Trouble is, that best-known Gulf Stream fact isn’t—a fact, that is. Ulanski begins to make us genuinely knowledgeable about the stream by first explaining grand oceanic movement, especially in the North Atlantic, in which the Gulf Stream is the western arm of a vast, four-segmented cycle of upper water, and then summarizing the stream’s “anatomy” and the history of human discovery of oceanic circulation, in which Ben Franklin is a key figure. Proceeding to marine biology in the book’s second section, Ulanski provides captivating chapters on plankton and larger floating organisms, the giant bluefin tuna, and the sport-fishable species in the stream. The third and last section rehearses how the stream enabled the Age of Discovery and the colonial cultures of North America and the Caribbean, including that of the latter’s storied pirates. Ulanski’s crystal-clear exposition keeps the science-and-history catch-up course he is teaching utterly fascinating throughout. --Ray Olson