The Great Deep: The Sea and Its Thresholds

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The sea is an irresistible source of science, romance and wonder to Hamilton-Paterson ( Playing with Water ). On an oceanographic charting expedition in the Pacific, he notes that the sea ``follows the Earth's crust like a quilt on a lumpy mattress.'' From his home in the Philippines, he explores a coral reef at night, alone, and observes an offshore island converted into a luxury resort for Japanese tourists. A visit to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor prompts his reflections on death and superstition at sea, while a stint with the crew of a Scottish trawler fishing in the North Sea elicits his dismay at the rubbish drawn up in the nets and the poor catch. He comments pessimistically that ``conservation is . . . a rearguard action, fought from a position of loss.'' These captivating essays, framed by the image of a lone swimmer lost between sea and sky, give a marvelous sense of our relationship to a watery world. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Hamilton-Paterson , a novelist and author of Playing with Water: Passion and Solitude on a Philippine Island (New Amsterdam Bks., 1987), begins his examination of the ocean through the eyes of a panicky, drowning swimmer, far from shore. Via this unique, possibly gruesome vehicle, he discusses charts and naming; islands and boundaries; reefs and seeing; wrecks and death; deeps and the dark; fishing and loss; pirates and nomads. This is the work of a knowledgeable man of the sea sharing diverse adventures, provocative musings, and speculations with his readers. Still, for libraries already owning William MacLeish's The Stream ( LJ 2/1/89) and Wesley Marx's The Frail Ocean (LJ 9/15/91), which offer a more scientific and environmental perspective, this is an optional purchase.-- Mary J. Nickum, Fish and Wildlife Reference Svcs. , Bethesda, Md.
Kirkus Reviews
Hamilton-Paterson—Englishman, novelist (Gerontius, 1991, etc.), poet, journalist, traveler—has written an impressive book reflecting all these attributes. For starters, he creates a spine-tingling scare in the form of a lone swimmer, tethered to his boat, peering at the tropical depths. The tether becomes untied; the swimmer looks up to find his vessel gone and himself alone in a featureless seascape. We meet the swimmer throughout the text, in wonderful, self-reflecting passages of hope and despair. In between are rich chapters covering an idiosyncratic collection of sea lore, anthropology, coral-reef ecology, war stories, commercial fishing, and, as an abiding theme, sad commentary on man's exploitation of man and nature. Hamilton- Paterson is particularly eloquent in describing the Philippine archipelago (he lives in a fishing village on one of the islands, when not in Tuscany), lamenting the transformation there of a tiny, arid island into a Japanese businessman's haven for golf, sun, and sex. In a chapter on piracy, the author describes the casual violence that pits one native group of sea "nomads" against another, abetted by the easy acquisition of guns. But there is nothing new under the sun, he reminds us, telling of Caribbean pirates of centuries ago, or of the plundering of survivors by rescuers then and now. Similarly, he notes, the despoiling of nature and the decimation of species are nothing new—except that the stakes are higher. Hamilton-Paterson comments ironically on the rules governing the size of fish that can be sold, culled from drift nets and other megatraps. The small fry and porpoises and other protected species are already dead or will die, hesays, when returned to the deep. Some light moments on mythical islands, some straightforward history, and some high-tech mapping of the sea floor are also included in this very personal and well-informed collection—and, yes, we do find out what happened to that swimmer stranded at sea.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679405962
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1992
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. ed
  • Pages: 300

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