To Follow the Water: Exploring the Sea to Discover Climate: From the Gulf Stream to the Blue Beyond
Dallas Murphy. Basic Books, $26 (278pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-350-9
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.
Reviewed on: 07/02/2007