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Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World Reprint Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199214297
ISBN-10: 0199214298
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stow, a U.K. geologist and oceanographer, has for decades been gathering evidence from around the world to show what the earth looked like 260 million years ago when the continents had fused into one supercontinent, which scientists call Pangaea, with an enormous C-shaped ocean--now lost--named Tethys (after the Greek sea goddess). Destroyed only five and a half million years ago by the movement of continents, Tethys straddled the equator and formed Pangaea's eastern shore. Tethys was responsible for laying down many of our current oil deposits, not only in the Mideast but also off West Africa and eastern South America. Stow links the two most famous widespread extinctions to Tethys, claiming that the massive Permian extinction was caused in large part by Pangaea fusing together, accompanied by a dramatic fall in sea levels. Stow is not impressed by the widely accepted theory that an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs; he maintains that gradual changes in Tethys and other oceans at the time played an important role. Stow's level of geological detail will allow hard-core science buffs to get into his re-creation of a lost world. 15 maps and line drawings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

An enormous length of geologic history—250 million years—unrolls in Stow’s intriguing biography of the Tethys Ocean. An artifact of the earth’s ceaseless plate tectonics, the Tethys formed from the supercontinent Pangea and then widened as Pangea rifted and new continents drifted to their present positions, in the process becoming extinguished by the collisions of India, Arabia, and Africa with Europe and Asia. Stow further describes how the ancient sea testifies to two of the most significant extinction events in evolutionary history (the Permian-Triassic event 245 million years ago and the Cretaceous-Tertiary event 65 million years ago) in rock strata and fossils. These Stow has seen over his globe-girdling career in geology; by expressing how sites look today, and imaging how they looked when formed, Stow creates contrasts compelling for anyone with a general interest in geology. Readers will be enthralled by creatures that evolved in the Tethys (whales, for example) or modern vistas that were once its floor (Mount Everest and the cliffs of Dover), making Stow a positive recruit to circulating science collections. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (May 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199214298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199214297
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.1 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #983,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dario Ventra on July 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I assume some scientists, once reached (or well past) the apex of their careers, feel the need to gush out part of their excitement, insight and lifetime drive to a big public of layreaders who'd otherwise remain totally oblivious of the wonders they could find out in their professional lives... And that's exactly how this book feels like, once you've read it! It's your good old geologist uncle sitting right next to you on that gently cracking rocking chair in some dimly lit porch, recounting ancient stories of this world and some past ones too. (With a notable British accent, I presume...)
After dealing with some of Dorrik Stow's papers on fine-grained turbidites and deep-water massive sandstones, was fun to discover he wrote this little, pleasant book in an attempt to popularize the philosophical bliss a geologist experiences in looking at the world in ways no one else truly can...

In a terse (if occasionally somewhat too dreamy and self-referential!) prose, the author slowly and systematically unwinds the whole history of an ancient oceanic realm whose legacy stands out today in the mountainous landscapes of four continents, in the fossil collections of many great musea, and in the rush and sounds of our everyday lives, fuelled as they are by oil and gas mainly originated in that ancient seaway....
The book's structure follows a chronological progression, from old times, when the Tethys Sea can first be identified in the rock record, to more recent ages, when it's slow demise left place to the world's geography as we know it. The simple but informative elegance of original paleogeographic maps opens every chapter, and helps to find one's way to all the ideas and corners of the world touched by the historical narrative.
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It's rare to find a book that's so accessible to the general well-read reader in the field of marine geology and science. Books available seem to either emphasize the complex details of a researcher's work, or to gloss over science and focus on the strange or grandiose.
Vanished Ocean is sometimes a bit whimsical and personal, which lightens the reading. But it's also an excellent overview of what we know right now about a strange period in our planet's history, when life first nearly vanished in the blink of an eye (90 to 96 percent of Earth's life forms disappeared) then reappeared with a grand flourish in the warm, broad, shallow seas of the Tethys Ocean.
Very cool reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Dorrik Stow is a geologist who specializes in mud. Not just any mud, mind you, but the muds created in a long vanished ocean called Tethys. And what an ocean it was, girdling the Earth for about 255 million - yes, million - years and playing an important role in the near-extinction of all life on the planet, scattering its debris on four fossils and instrumental in the formation of the vast pools of oil under the Earth's surface and so much more.

Stow talks to the lay reader in a conversational tone that assumes the reader is of higher than average intelligence and has at least a very minimal understanding of the history of the planet. Stow's broad knowledge is both impressive and fascinating as he explores the world for evidence of the scope, breadth and remains of Tethys.

His description of the innumerable forms of life that originated or evolved in Tethys and their contribution to the world's development is masterly. He takes what we have accepted as commonplace, such as the white chalk cliffs of Dover (England) and explains how the walls hundreds of feet high are the remains of once living creatures. A grain of sand in his hands is demonstrated to be an artifact 500 million years old. Read this book and you'll never feel the same as you walk a beach or a mountain path: you'll realize that you are in the midst of living history, often hundreds of millions of years old.

Stow is really great at bringing geology and its lessons to life for the lay reader.

Unfortunately, he preens a lot. I quickly grew tired of his proclaiming his favorite wines here, there and everywhere.
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When I first saw this book advertised on Amazon in my suggestions section, I quickly added it to my shopping list because it seemed like a very interesting topic. Who wouldn't want to know more about supercontinents and a long-vanished ocean that had a big impact on the world? In actuality, this book ends up being more of a geological and biological history of the areas related to the ancient ocean known as Thethys. There are some very interesting an relatively little-known (to lay readers) facts about Pangea and Tethys and some very fresh perspectives on things like mass extinction events and how they relate to previous tectonic arrangements of the planet, but overall, the book reads more like a standard history of the geology of a particular section of the planet. To me that is an interesting enough topic to keep me reading, but I should point out that in places, the author lists so many types of rocks or organisms in such a short space that some readers might become exasperated and give up before getting to the end of the book, which in my opinion, is one of the strongest parts.

Like many books of this type, there are a number of interesting anecdotes derived from the author's extensive trips and research junkets to places as disparate as an ocean drilling expedition and rock collecting trips to Tibet. He gives numerous examples of how evidence of the history of Tethys can be seen in different places around the globe. Included in the book also are a number of maps showing the general layout of the continents and oceans for the corresponding chapter.
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