At the age of fourteen, after a Hans Hass TV show in which Hass’s wife peeled and ate a banana under water, Norton headed to the bay in his Northumberland home town and plunged into the cold, murky water, deciding that this “was the real world.” In this beautifully written combination of memoir and natural history, Norton, a retired professor of marine biology, recalls night explorations in kelp forests among transparent shrimp visible only because of food moving through their guts, and celebrates unusual sea cultures, such as that of the ama, in Japan—women who free-dive for abalone shells in temperatures so cold that they lose half their body fat each winter. Norton’s style is whimsical but tempered by a passionate concern for the ocean’s vulnerability to human impact.
This delightfully wry account of a lifetime enchanted by the sea should enshrine marine biologist Norton in the pantheon of sea-struck pioneers he brilliantly profiled in his earlier Stars Beneath the Sea. Norton details a love affair that began in his hometown of Whitley Bay, a fading English resort town, where he one day dove into the water and discovered a "fresh and alive sea" that was "everything that the land wasn't." Though he'd been a less-than-average student, his newfound love propelled him to undergraduate and graduate work and then to a life full of oceanographic adventures from the Canary Islands to Sweden and Yemen. Whether discussing the sea lions of Southern California or the coral gardens of Sharm el Sheikh, Norton writes in a charming, tongue-in-cheek style. He is equally adept at elucidating the politics behind the pollution he finds in places such as the Philippines-where fishermen have been allowed to dynamite and poison coral reefs-as he is at illuminating the beauty of what others might consider odd, such as the "magical properties" of slime as used by the limpets off the Isle of Man. (June 1) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Marine biologist Norton (Univ. of Liverpool, UK; Stars Beneath the Sea: The Pioneers of Diving) grew up in a seaside town near Newcastle and was fascinated from an early age by underwater plants and animals. In these lighthearted essays that are part memoir, part natural history, he conveys his profound love of nature and the ocean, injecting his dry sense of humor into such topics as diving, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, island biology, human evolution, seaweed ecology, and luminescence. His autobiographical accounts are interwoven with marine science topics accompanied by lovely line drawings by his wife, Win. Traveling around the world in connection with his scientific work, he finds humor and interest in his human encounters as well as in his biological studies. While not an essential purchase for specialized academic marine science collections, this book will be enjoyed by readers in public, secondary school, and college libraries and may inspire young people to study the natural world. [First published in Great Britain, this title is a Borders "Original Voices" selection.-Ed.]-Judith B. Barnett, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Kingston Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Marine biologist Norton (Stars Beneath the Sea, 2000, etc.) chronicles his enviable peripatetic life. He grew up in Britain, next to a sullen sea rimmed with coal dust. But underwater, there was gold. The first image he recalls is of a cormorant scooting to the surface, "a dark javelin in a cone of bubbles." There was no looking back for Norton. Water would be his metier. The author here provides shrewd commentary about sponges, anemones, barnacles, sea cucumbers, puffins, limpets, water spiders, coral, sea snakes and kelp. That acuity might be taken for granted, given his reputation, but he also makes intelligent observations about the histories of the regions he visits, a diverse topography including Britain, Sweden, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Yemen, the Philippines and Ireland. He engagingly holds forth on continental drift, the Bermuda Triangle, the strange juju of shipwrecks, the eroticism of the sea world. But he also delivers an elbow to the windpipe regarding humans' degradation of the oceans. Norton claims-and justifies-his air of authority from the fieldwork he has done. He is out there getting wet and dirty, living rough, gathering findings first hand. When he talks about changes in the seascape, readers know that he has seen the before and after. Norton would never suggest that the oceans are anything less than theaters of surprise and wonder, but he reminds us that they are not limitless and recommends some significant remedial behavior to help preserve them. A chattily erudite account of the author's personal pilgrimage.