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Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

5.0 4
by Jonathan White, Peter Matthiessen (Foreword by)

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In Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, writer, sailor, and surfer Jonathan White takes readers across the globe to discover the science and spirit of ocean tides. In the Arctic, White shimmies under the ice with an Inuit elder to hunt for mussels in the dark cavities left behind at low tide; in China, he races the Silver Dragon, a


In Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, writer, sailor, and surfer Jonathan White takes readers across the globe to discover the science and spirit of ocean tides. In the Arctic, White shimmies under the ice with an Inuit elder to hunt for mussels in the dark cavities left behind at low tide; in China, he races the Silver Dragon, a twenty-five-foot tidal bore that crashes eighty miles up the Qiantang River; in France, he interviews the monks that live in the tide-wrapped monastery of Mont Saint-Michel; in Chile and Scotland, he investigates the growth of tidal power generation; and in Panama and Venice, he delves into how the threat of sea level rise is changing human culture—the very old and very new. Tides combines lyrical prose, colorful adventure travel, and provocative scientific inquiry into the elemental, mysterious paradox that keeps our planet’s waters in constant motion. Photographs, scientific figures, line drawings, and sixteen color photos dramatically illustrate this engaging, expert tour of the tides.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Conservationist White (Talking on the Water) combines scientific investigation with personal memoir in this solid examination of the nature of tides and waves. He looks at how tides are affected regularly by the moon and how they in turn affect both humans and sea life. White grew up surfing, diving, sailing, and fishing in coastal waters, and for years navigated the Pacific Northwest archipelago aboard his schooner, Crusader. Setting out to learn more about the tides, he identifies four zones of tidal exposure: the splash zone and the high, middle, and low intertidal zones. Sections about monster swells near Half Moon Bay, Calif., prove especially fascinating. At a spot named Mavericks, 20-foot waves attract surfers from around the world every winter. White also describes the changing tide in Venice, Italy, where residents have for decades dealt with flooding in lower elevations and consider its vicissitudes a normal feature of life. With an eye on the future, White outlines ways in which tidal energy can be “harnessed as a source of heat and light,” citing the importance of a supportive government and the need for strong renewable energy policies—ideals with which many readers will agree. Color photos. (Mar.)
From the Publisher


“Conservationist Jonathan White combines scientific investigation with personal memoir in this solid examination of the nature of tides and waves.” — Publishers Weekly

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean offers a grand mix of science history, ocean lore and literary travel writing.” — Oregonian

“A fascinating work of literary nonfiction, rich with characters, stories and scenes from around the globe.” — Bangor Daily News

“White’s research makes Tides a fascinating read.” — Portland Press Herald

Tides is a circumnavigation – tides are simultaneously the protagonist and antagonist. Wrecker of havoc and deus exmachina. And perhaps what’s most interesting is White’s narrative surrounding how each part of the world has adapted to their unique tidal variations. Tides aspires to inspire a new appreciation for a global natural process that most ocean enthusiasts take for granted.” — The Internia

“As a surfer and sailor, Jonathan White pays attention to tides. But he didn’t really understand them until he traveled around the world to meet people and see places where the ebb and flow, the rise and fall, shape lives and tell epic stories. His new nonfiction book, Tides, is the result.” — San Diego Union-Tribune

“Anyone inclined to take the movement of the tides for granted will think twice after reading this wide-ranging study from a conservationist and avid sailor... White’s heightened awareness of the planet’s “cosmic beat” is bound to make readers more sensitive to the mysteries of what might otherwise seem commonplace.” — Kirkus Reviews


“This is not really a book ‘about’ tides, though tides are a main character. It’s about life’s literal ups and downs. About mysterious pulls and invisible forces. About rhythms and pulses and seasons and the flowings of vast living migrations along coasts and through deep oceans. Along the way, you learn a lot of things about actual tides. Astounding things that you never knew you didn’t know. A wondrous book, full of heart.”
— Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Beyond Words.

“Jonathan White has the ocean in his veins, and with Tides he has written a gorgeous elegy to its monumental presence, its ageless mystery. A sailor, a surfer, a scientific mind, and a seeker, White goes deep beneath the surface with the grace of a poet. Be prepared for some serious magic when you read these pages.” — Susan Casey, author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

“Jonathan White’s tidal explorations drew me in with just the right mix of science, history, and storytelling, propelled throughout by the author’s infectious curiosity and sense of wonder. Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and filled with unexpected connections and discoveries, Tides is a splendid book—highly recommended.” — Thor Hanson, author of Feathers and The Triumph of Seeds

“I loved this book. Jonathan White weaves the science throughout his travel stories so that the reader is not inundated with mathematical and scientific theories. I recommend it to both scientists and nonscientists.” —Sally Warner, PhD in physical oceanography, Oregon State University

“One of the most fascinating, engaging, relevant, and impeccably brilliant books I have ever read. It has profoundly changed my sense of the earth, the oceans, the sky, and how they are deeply interwoven with the course of human thought and history.” — Richard Nelson, author of The Island Within

“Newton’s death mask, bore tide waves on a Chinese river, a grounded sailboat in Alaska, a French monastery, the slowing of the earth’s rotation, world-class surfing, alternative energy, and more come together in Jonathan White’s wonderful Tides, a book for every lover of the sea and for those who think—mistakenly—that tables and charts contain everything worth knowing about the perpetual rise and fall of the sea.” — Bill Streever, author of And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind: A Natural History of Moving Air

“Tides is easy to read, easy to follow, erudite. White beautifully integrates his personal experience into the science, keeping me grounded in the present as a reader and making the tides not just personal but passionately alive. I expect to read it again and again. Pass it on, recommend it, give it as a gift!” — Pam Loew, Turtleback Books

“Jonathan White provides us in this fine, fascinating book with a clear understanding of the infinitely complex and wild nature of our planet’s tidal forces in all their mystery and beauty.” — Peter Matthiessen, from the foreword

Kirkus Reviews
Anyone inclined to take the movement of the tides for granted will think twice after reading this wide-ranging study from a conservationist and avid sailor.White (Talking on the Water: Conversations about Nature and Creativity, 1994) chronicles his travels around the globe watching the tides go in and out, often pausing to reflect on the history of the still-incomplete human understanding of their workings. At the site of one of the highest tides in the world, close to the Arctic Circle in Canada, he ventured under the ice left behind by the retreating tide with an Inuit guide to hunt for mussels, finding himself in a "dreamlike state…inside the body of the ocean." In southern Chile, White was awed by the "seesaw" motion where two large oceans, whose tides are out of sync, meet. In England, he assisted at a "tidemill," where the movement of the tide is harnessed to grind grain, and he ponders the future use of "tide energy," which is still in its infancy. While intricate explanations of the mathematics and science behind the workings of the tides may leave some readers baffled, White always returns to the solid ground of personal experience. Graphs and line drawings illustrate the principles, and a series of photographs of places taken at both high and low tide serve as reminders of the dazzling power of this everyday change. If the author sometimes strays from his ostensible subject to focus on surfers riding enormous waves or to interview monks whose monastery is daily separated from the mainland by the tides, he always finds his way back to the dance between the sun, the moon, and the waters of Earth. White's heightened awareness of the planet's "cosmic beat" is bound to make readers more sensitive to the mysteries of what might otherwise seem commonplace.

Product Details

Trinity University Press
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan White is an active marine conservationist, a sailor, and a surfer. His first book, Talking on the Water: Conversations about Nature and Creativity, is a collection of interviews exploring our relationship with nature and features Gretel Ehrlich, David Brower, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gary Snyder, Peter Matthiessen, and others. White has written for the Christian Science Monitor, The Sun, Orion, Surfer’s Journal, and other publications. He holds an MFA in creative nonfiction and lives with his wife and son on a small island in Washington State.

Peter Matthiessen (May 22, 1927–April 5, 2014) was an American novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer, and CIA agent. A co-founder of the Paris Review, he was a 2008 National Book Award winner. He was also an environmental activist. His nonfiction, notably The Snow Leopard, featured nature and travel, as well as American Indian issues and history, including his study of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. His early story story "Travelin' Man" was made into the film The Young One directed by Luis Buñuel, and his novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord was made into a 1991 film. He lived in Sagaponak, New York.

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Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
BHerem 7 months ago
Tides: the Science and Spirit of the Ocean is a curiously promising title by Johnathan White, author, 2017, Trinity University Press, Austin, TX. It’s solid science alright yet with a promise of more amidst its 335 amiable pages which overflow with factual understandings about the world’s most dramatically impressive tidal currents, rips, vast ebb and flow and the powerful forces of our solar system which compel it all into being. As for the spirit of it, author White has made it his job to travel to the most powerful of such places during the periods of their most sensational movement, taking in the experience of foaming or roaring or swiftly ascending waters at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, at Mont. St.Michel in Normandy, at the estuary of the Quintang River near Shanghai, China and, perhaps most daringly, beneath the sea ice of Ungava Bay in Alaska. Here the receding tides leave gaping, eerily dark openings accessible by ladder to a stony sea floor where local people find a bounty of edible mollusks. He goes right down there working with his guide until, implacable and swift, they can see the silently returning sea rising to engulf them. It’s all a great kind of moveable lark written with a brightly conscious sense of the adventure in it. He’s having a blast while providing an armchair experience for the rest of us. His is also, in the additional spirit of fine writing, a literary telling, for White is a lyrical writer with a mind given to novelistically observed details of places and people as well as to deep and lovely musings about the nature of the cosmos. In a charming moment he quotes a distinguished Chinese tidal scientist who perceptively notes that though the stupendous tidal bore of the Quintang River interests him intensely, it does so for the purposes of measurement whereas he says to White, “poets like you want to get closer to feel its power and beauty.” Yes, and he does it well. The author tells then of how such power and beauty must have been experienced by much earlier peoples, relating their experience in recorded myths and folklore, and ultimately how the natural philosophers and nascent scientists of the West began putting it altogether in concrete terms. From Aristotle to Descartes to Newton they all got it wrong or missed major points of comprehension which is no wonder since, as White points out, we still don’t fully understand the tides and can by no means create yet anything like globally reliable tide charts. We are still living on an unknown sea. Lastly, White tells how people all over the world, from Venice, Italy to the Kuna islanders of the San Blas Islands off the Panamanian coast are dealing with not just the unpredictable highest tides of their region, but also with the manifest threat of the continuing rise in sea levels. To this he adds a good deal of interesting information about broad efforts to channel the world’s tides into a source of electrical energy, efforts which are largely in their infancy. In this part of his telling he sounds the call for attention to the facts and future of global warming and in doing so eloquently assumes the cautionary mantle of renowned author Rachel Carson, whose own luminous path he has now taken.
EnidBr 7 months ago
Very engaging book about the nature of Tides. Right away in the first chapter I was drawn in by the story of a plain mudflat beach and how its transformation into a beach shimmering with many tiny semipalmated sandpipers revealed hidden intricate connections of life cycles based on the tides. The photo on the second page capturing the beautiful turning of wings was stunning, a first illustration of the author's sense of wonder as he continues to explore and explain tide events all over the the world, bringing alive for us the history and complexity of tide science. I was particularly struck by the clarity of his explanations of complex concepts – his metaphorical illustrations asking you to picture yourself in the middle of the action of the moving parts of the theory are quite effective in bringing understanding. There is a movement not unlike the action of the tides themselves, throughout the book, bringing you gently back again to the definition of the terms you need to understand, that builds at just the right pace. The sense of adventure and curiosity of the author as he shares personal anecdotes provides a nice balance to theory and history and the book is full of captivating details about natural processes that make you stop and think. By the end of the book you feel as though you were there, experiencing the movement of the water too, smelling the beach, part of nature.
MargoKelly 8 months ago
Jonathan White's book, TIDES, includes interesting facts about the way our earth functions AND about the way people have learned to adapt over time to earth's cycles. TIDES is a non-fiction book with such captivating prose that I wanted to keep reading until I hit the end. Here are a few of my favorite passages: "From a practical point of view, it didn't matter if the tide was caused by a waterwheel or a beast or a god; it only mattered that daily survival was easier if you observed the tide and worked with it, not against it. The more you knew, the better." (page 8) "The roadside is overgrown with alder and black spruce, but at times it opens to sweeping green fields of hay and corn, punctuated by large gambrel-roofed barns and crisp white Victorian farmhouses." (page 14) "Patches of hard, damp sand stretch for miles, their heavy corduroy surface dazzled in sunlight and shadow." (page 45) I highly recommend TIDES to anyone who is interested in learning about the earth or anyone who is simply interested in reading a well written book.
RBReads 8 months ago
Tides is a wonderful read. Traveling around the globe, the writer takes us deeper into tidal dynamics with each chapter. Salt air, teeming intertidal life, and ocean surge are palpable as we begin to understand the scale of forces at play a little better. Tides’ narrative involves the reader in conversations about history, conservation, technology and making a living. A real pleasure to share Jonathan White’s engagement with people and place.
Bookbro 9 months ago
Author Jonathan White captures the essence and mystery of the oceans that surround us. Based on his years of sailing and exploration and his intimate contacts with the seas, he brilliantly sets forth the dangers and romance lurking in our waters. His writing goes to the core of the profound effect the movements of our waters have had and will have on our fragile planet. His perilous personal experiences combined with deep philosophical observations help the reader understand the action and importance of our waters. I highly recommend it.