4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2012
I recently completed a semester-long introduction to oceanography course and this book was used. The key to getting an "A" in the course is reading this text - if you didn't read each chapter thoroughly, you didn't get an "A" in the course, quite simply. The information in the book, despite being rather concise (it's only an introduction, after all), covered a lot of ground with many different topics.
The central idea of the book is not just how the ocean functions, but the role it has in shaping Earth processes on large and small scales. The book takes an Earth systems approach in detailing how the ocean is interconnected with all other systems, including the biosphere, geosphere, and perhaps most importantly, the atmosphere. What takes place at the ocean-atmosphere interface goes a long way in determining localized weather events as well as global climate patterns, in which virtually everything is affected. Because humans have no choice but to observe these patterns for our own survival, increased understanding and accountability towards the ocean is paramount as we continue into the future. (This aspect is also touched on in the book, even detailing guidelines for responsible ocean stewardship.)
You'll also get a healthy dose of information on new ocean surveying and research technology that is currently being utilized, from remote submersibles, underwater research stations, to satellite technology. And, of course, you'll get sections on sea life and how wonderous it can be, but the book takes a sober view of it all. For example, the increased strain put on fish stocks due to upscaled sea food production is one such concern as we've already witnessed the results of fisheries collapse across the world. The issue of bycatch is also an issue demanding attention, especially if many marine species are expected to be around in the coming decades.
If you pick up the investigations manual with this book (should be available in a package on this site or elsewhere), you'll get a nice bonus on learning about the great tools NOAA uses (who had a hand in the creation of this program, I'm sure), many of which are accessible online. For example, the buoy arrays stretched across the Pacific Ocean designed to monitor conditions to warn of El Nino/La Nina offer real time readings available to the public. The manual also builds on points made in the text, but what makes it worth the price is gaining access to those tools (to me, at least).
Overall, this text is a great way for the newcomer to begin learning about oceanography. It covers a lot of bases without being to technical, with little to no math involved. Although the information can be dense in spots, reading this book cover to cover will not only help you do well in the course, but enhance (and perhaps change) your perspective of the planet and our role on it.
It might even tempt you to switch majors, like me.