Five things I didn’t know about the ocean

My review of Professor Callum Roberts’ new book The Ocean of Life has just come out in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. This is the follow up to his first book An unnatural history of the sea (it was one of the Five Books I picked for the Browser) – it dives into the history of how we’ve stripped the oceans of pretty much anything we deem edible – as well as much that we don’t. His latest literary effort casts an even wider net to tell the story of all the oceans many woes. And let me tell you, even for a marine scientist like myself who spends a lot of time reading, thinking, writing and talking about these things, this was a scary read.

Nevertheless, I whole heartedly recommend you read it – whether you’re a marine scientist, a diver, or an ocean-fan – and especially if you are not already convinced that the oceans are awesome and need help. I defy you to think otherwise after you’ve read this. Roberts fills his chapters with piles of the latest studies that spell out just how much damage has already been done and what we can expect in the future.

Interestingly, the American version is subtitled “The Fate of Man and the Sea” (is that a nod to Hemmingway’s Old Man?) while over here in Europe we get a simpler cover, the “The” is dropped and  the subtitle reads “How Our Seas are Changing”. Go figure.

And as a marine scientist, I was stunned at how many facts and ideas Roberts included in his book that blew my mind. Here are five of my favourite things that I learned from his book. Check out @seamonsterblog and @helenscales for more.

1. In a cave in southern France (accessible only by scuba diving) there are 19,000 year old paintings of  monk seals getting speared. And jellyfish.

 2. In the 1st decade of this century, more plastic was made than all the plastic in history up to the year 2000

3. The Pacific Ocean gyres turn once every 6.5 years. The loop that circles Antarctica turns once every 3.33 years

4. Two thirds of the oil spilled into the sea comes from land runoff plus pleasure boats & jet skis

5. The Romans kept eels as pets & gave them body piercings & gold jewelry


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