Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean


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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595348050
Publisher: Trinity University Press
Publication date: 01/31/2017
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 1,182,694
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About 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.

Table of Contents

Foreword Peter Matthiessen xiii

In Deep: An Introduction i

1 The Perfect Dance: Birds and Big Tides in the Bay of Fundy 13

2 Star of Our Life: A Meditation on Tide History at Mont Saint-Michel 44

3 Silver Dragon: China's Qiantang River Tidal Bore 75

4 The Last Magician: Sir Isaac Newton and the Scientific Revolution 97

5 Big Waves: Surfing Mavericks and Nineteenth-Century Tide Theories 126

6 Fast Water: How Tidal Currents Slow the Earth and Bend Time 159

7 Big Tides and Resonance: Fundy and Ungava 191

8 Turning the Tide: Grinding Wheat, Powering Homes 219

9 Higher Tides: Sea Level Rise from Kuna Yala to Venice 252

Acknowledgments 286

Image Credits 289

Glossary 290

Notes 294

Sources 309

Index 327


"A phenomenal book — probably one of the smartest books about a spirit I've ever read." — The Toronto Star

"A rich story... engaging." — The Wall Street Journal

"A lively exploration of the heritage, culture, practices and politics that shape Mexico's most famous export. Martineau introduces producers using traditional agricultural and distillation methods, shows readers why they're worth preserving, and outlines the challenges facing anyone concerned with the quality and sustainability of tequila, mezcal and other agave spirits." — The Kansas City Star

"Martineau journeys through Mexico interviewing producers of the agave-based spirits tequila and mescal. She's dismayed that international beverage distributors now design and market Mexico's signature alcoholic drinks and that techniques of mass production too often sacrifice integrity and authenticity." — Foreign Affairs

"Martineau argues convincingly that good tequila resembles wine more than it does its fellow liquors. She writes of agave plantations as if they are vineyards, with variations in climate, slope, soil, and moisture resulting in variations in the plants that are, in turn, discernible in the distilled product. She co-opts the precious French word terroir and applies it to her subject with no intended loss of dignity." — The Los Angeles Review of Books

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Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
BHerem More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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.