To Follow the Water: Exploring the Ocean to Discover Climate

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9781582433509: To Follow the Water: Exploring the Ocean to Discover Climate

In To Follow the Water, critically acclaimed author Dallas Murphy artfully recasts the story of human expansion and cultural development with the ocean playing the central role. Applying a novelist's eye for detail and a historian's drive for perspective, he connects the great ages of ocean exploration from Columbus, Magellan, and Cook to the development of modern oceanography. Taking the reader aboard the research vessels Oceanus and Ronald H. Brown, Murphy observes and participates in the practice of ocean science. Whether demonstrating the proper way to don a survival suit in an abandon-ship drill, actually operating oceanographic instruments, or just sitting down for a breakfast of Dramamine and blueberry pancakes, Murphy humorously evokes daily-life aboard these research vessels, unique amalgams of floating laboratories, heavy industry, delicate measurements, and brute force. By following the water, he and the reader discover that ocean currents, flowing on the surface and in the abyss like giant blood vessels, transport heat around the globe, thereby stabilizing and moderating our climate. The Gulf Stream, the best-known ocean current, is but one among many, each inseparable from the others and all inextricably linked to the atmosphere in determining the condition of our climate. There can be no sensible concept of climate that ignores the oceans, yet they have been largely left out of the climate and climate-change discussion. Letting scientists speak for themselves at sea and ashore, Murphy learns that oceanographers are not only observing and explaining the ocean's dynamic, global circulation, but also employing their skills, tools, and techniques to predict climate change. Their brilliant work is largely unknown outside of professional circles even though the role of the ocean is crucial to our understanding of global warming and climate change. To Follow the Water is an enlightening and entertaining voyage of discovery spanning the evolution of our relationship to the ocean, first as an impediment to human ambition, then as the pathway for Western expansion, and now, most important, as a subject of scientific study with immediate relevance to our future.

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About the Author:

Dallas Murphy is a novelist, playwright, and marine journalist. His plays have been produced Off Broadway, and his series of three novels featuring the reluctant sleuth Artie Deemer have been critically acclaimed. His most recent book, an account of Cape Horn, Rounding the Horn, was published in 2004 by Basic Books. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

Marine journalist Murphy, a life-long "dock rat," rescues physical oceanography from dull classroom lectures (a sore spot among aspiring oceanographers) with this romantic, accessible work that makes difficult concepts like water-mass movement engrossing and inspiring. Chronicling his seafaring adventures with physical oceanographers ("fizzos") from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Murphy has done an enormous service for general readers interested in the science and politics of climate change by asking and, more importantly, re-asking detailed questions until he can produce jargon-free explanations. Organized around the history of oceanography, beginning with Viking, Portuguese and Spanish explorers, Murphy recounts the gradual discovery of the North Atlantic gyre and how this influenced the history of New World colonization, the groundbreaking work of 20th century fizzos such as Henry Stommel, Walter Munk and Maurice Ewing, and the latest developments in the research they begat. Along the way, Murphy provides a fascinating look at the shipboard research experience: the life of a scientist at sea, the use of instruments and a myriad of other details. Murphy's conversational style can make for some overlong sentences, but his background research is close to impeccable; unfortunately, a less-than-thorough editing job overlooks some obvious mistakes (as in the passage misidentifying "phytoplankton" and "zooplankton") and fails to reference the well-chosen charts and illustrations within the text.
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