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Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean Paperback – July 14, 2011
The Amazon Book Review
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At the center of Deep Blue Home--a penetrating exploration of the ocean as single vast current and of the creatures dependent on it--is Whitty's description of the three-dimensional ocean river, far more powerful than the Nile or the Amazon, encircling the globe. It's a watery force connected to the earth's climate control and so to the eventual fate of the human race. Whitty's thirty-year career as a documentary filmmaker and diver has given her sustained access to the scientists dedicated to the study of an astonishing range of ocean life, from the physiology of "extremophile" life forms to the strategies of nesting seabirds to the ecology of "whale falls" (what happens upon the death of a behemoth). No stranger to extreme adventure, Whitty travels the oceanside and underwater world from the Sea of Cortez to Newfoundland to Antarctica. In the Galapagos, in one of the book's most haunting encounters, she realizes: "I am about to learn the answer to my long-standing question about what would happen to a person in the water if a whale sounded directly alongside--would she, like a person afloat beside a sinking ship, be dragged under too?" This book provides extraordinary armchair entree to gripping adventure, cutting-edge science, and an intimate understanding of our deep blue home.
A Q&A with Julia Whitty, Author of Deep Blue Home
Q: Where did Deep Blue Home come from?
A: I made nature documentaries about the oceans for years and my second book, The Fragile Edge, was a love letter to the coral reefs of the world. But in this book I wanted to circulate to the ocean's farthest fetch and depth and bring its stories and science ashore, so that people in the landlocked hearts of our continents would see how this water world gives us life.
Q: What did it take to write this book?
A: I've been traveling on and under the oceans since my teenage days, first in science, later in documentary filmmaking, and since 2000 as a writer. I've been fortunate to visit some of Earth's most wondrous wet places and meet the people working there, the biologists, oceanographers, fishermen, wilderness guides, and locals. The book is called "an intimate ecology" because it's a very personal story of a life spent adrift on currents of curiosity and adventure.
Q: What kind of adventures have you had?
A: In my early science work, I was anchored to a tiny, remote, uninhabited island in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, home to half a million seabirds and nothing else. Filmmaking adventures took me all over the world, from diving with sperm whales off the Galapagos to diving on Arctic icebergs to experiencing the extremophile communities living below the reach of sunlight on the deep sea floor. Writing adventures have swept me out to sea in wild weather with scientists sampling the living pulse of the ocean as a way to measure changes underway from climate change.
Q: What inspires you about the ocean?
A: The seashore is a place of inspiration and introspection for many. Offshore the wonders only multiply. What we're learning today about the remote and deep ocean is bigger, deeper, darker, colder, farther, older than anything we could have imagined even 25 years ago. Technology combined with a growing lineage of scientific knowledge allows us to explore what we previously couldn't even imagine. We visit communities of life thriving thousands of feet below Antarctic ice. We follow pairs of mated seabirds flying 44,000-mile figure-eight loops around the Pacific between their nesting seasons. We magnify ocean water and find bacterial species in excess of 10 million.
Q: Do you have a favorite place in the ocean?
A: The beauty of the ocean is that it's profoundly connected by its constantly moving waters. Most ocean life is nomadic, at least for some stage of its development. Jellyfish drift through their adulthood yet are anchored to the seafloor when they're young. The opposite is true for many fish that inhabit a small corner of the seafloor in adulthood yet drift as plankton in their larval stages. The majority of sea life follows temperature gradients the way we follow roads and highways. Which means that a changing climate carries marine life with it. The ocean defies all our anchors.
Q: Do you consider the ocean your home?
A: The deep blue home is home to all of us no matter our address. We feel the gravitational pull of its tides and the spiritual lift of its infinite horizon. Today we understand that it's also the single most powerful arbiter of well-being for the seven billion human beings living on a small planet misnamed Earth. In my career on the water, I’ve witnessed some of the ocean's many miracles, absorbed its punishments, felt my way along the edges of its unexplored frontiers, dived with its musclemen and its ballerinas, sailed with its swashbucklers and exiles. Working beside scientists, I’ve learned to translate a word of two of the ocean’s native tongues. The time I’ve spent at sea has also proven a brief yet decisive window into changes underway: oceanic problems, once local, now gone pandemic to compromise the equilibrium allowing us to flourish. Yet nature is beneficent too. For every reprimand from the deep blue home, we are offered a dozen forgivenesses. When we listen, we can hear its song of sustainability.
(Photo © Sharon Urquhart)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This is a story of species in radical decline, ocean chemistry undergoing catastrophic change, past excesses of organic despoliation and current extremes of toxic pollution. It might be well to post a sign above the cover sea turtle's head: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter. The changes we have set in motion are clearly poised to fundamentally change the history of life on earth, perhaps even to end the current reign of higher life forms entirely.
I am constrained from giving Whitty's book my highest rating by two aspects of her telling. The author offers the taxonomic classification and current status (threatened, endangered, etc.) of each new species she mentions. While informative, it continually breaks the flow of her otherwise inspired style. The mass of information thus dumped on the reader is too much to easily assimilate in a meaningful way, and thus throws logs in the readerly road to no good effect.
Second, Whitty's effort to link her stories to mythology and various religious texts seems strained, interruptive and irrelevant to the profound observations she makes so cogently in her personal observations. While I can assume that those ancient stories hold deep relevance to her world view, they dilute rather than enhance my appreciation of her important work.
Notwithstanding those concerns, I highly recommend this book to anyone concerned about the parlous state of our planetary ecology or who'd like to know more about life beneath the seven seas. Well done.
The first part of the book is based on her experiences in 1980 with two scientists working on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California, the stretch of sometimes treacherous waters between the Baja California peninsula and the Mexico mainland. Isla Rasa is one of a series of small islands in the gulf and is an important nesting and breeding ground for gulls that have migrated from Canada and for terns arrived from Chile. The island was once an important site for guano mining to produce fertiliser but is now barren and rarely visited. Whitty describes the birds and their predators, the sea life around the island and the petrels and fish-eating bats that also nest in this region. The wildlife appears abundant but is under increasing threat from fishing, hunting and the impact of agriculture and hydro dams.
In the longer second part of the book, the action moves on a few years to the waters off Newfoundland and New England. Whitty is now filming icebergs and whales. She describes the life cycles of various marine mammals and the fish and other sea creatures on which they subsist. It's a cold and harsh environment, and the people who live here are hardy and calculating. Ecological reserves have been set up and there is sound legislation in both the United States and Canada aimed at preserving the marine environment, but it is always a case of catching up, and often catching up too late.Read more ›
Whitty describes a surreal encounter with a huge pelagic turtle, ten feet offshore on a tiny island in the Sea of California that is rookery to whiteouts of gulls and terns. Late afternoon light silvers the image, as the prehistoric survivor munches on jellies, all floating in the becalmed swells.
Regarding the mechanical citation of each species' place on the endangered list, some populations are robust enough for this to be excessive.
I came to this author through a brilliant, wide-ranging article of great depth and passion, about population, published in Mother Jones some years ago. I highly recommend all of her work I've read.
With a vibrant dialogue, Whitty explores our oceans and the challenges we face (global warming, over fishing, poor fishing practices, pollution and more) if we are ever to save our huge bodies of water and the teeming life it carries within. Combining literature and science, Whitty gives you a real feel for what is happening in our oceans.
I would truly like to give this book five stars, but Whitty's writing seems to become choppy and disconnected at times. The book did not flow well. However, that said, it is well worth reading if you care about the ecosystem and what is happening with marine life. It is much more readable than many other books out there on the same subject.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Whitty, a writer and environmentalist, gives us a book worthy of the title. She is a wonderful writer – while we have many good nature/science writers (Angier, Safina, et. al. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Matthew A. Bille
I love this Julia Whitty's books. She has a real gift for presenting her experience from a scientist's (and explorer's) point of view, in very poetic, universal writing. Read morePublished on August 9, 2014 by Teresa J. Black
This is a very interesting and beautifully written book. Whitty uses her various experiences in the scientific world to show how the fate of the oceans will determine the future of... Read morePublished on February 20, 2014 by Kristin
We spent three full summer seasons on our sailboat in the Bahia de Los Angeles area. This book describes the place and wildlife beautifully. Read morePublished on December 23, 2013 by S/V Nakia
I found that the author, Julia Whitty, pictures herself in her new book, Deep Blue Home more as an invader than a visitor. And she's right. Read morePublished on October 2, 2013 by D. Wayne Dworsky
Such a wonderful book that brings the reader to a closer connection with the world's oceans. I felt like I was scuba diving when I was reading Deep Blue Home.Published on May 23, 2013 by Tess Duberville
Whitty writes a good story. I particularly liked learning more about the ecology of Baja California. The vignettes are captivating, but not comprehensive.Published on April 14, 2013 by Amazon Customer
I'm ashamed to admit that I practice avoidance. The truth is that it all seems to be too much for me at times. War, climate change politics... Read morePublished on April 6, 2013 by just kath
This is a poetic and insightful book on the ecosystems within ecosystems
that are our oceans...and the abuse and disrespect we heap on them. Read more