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Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009 - Science - 304 pages
2 Reviews

By the middle of the nineteenth century, as scientists explored the frontiers of polar regions and the atmosphere, the ocean remained silent and inaccessible. The history of how this changed--of how the depths became a scientific passion and a cultural obsession, an engineering challenge and a political attraction--is the story that unfolds in "Fathoming the Ocean."

In a history at once scientific and cultural, Helen Rozwadowski shows us how the Western imagination awoke to the ocean's possibilities--in maritime novels, in the popular hobby of marine biology, in the youthful sport of yachting, and in the laying of a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The ocean emerged as important new territory, and scientific interests intersected with those of merchant-industrialists and politicians. Rozwadowski documents the popular crazes that coincided with these interests--from children's sailor suits to the home aquarium and the surge in ocean travel. She describes how, beginning in the 1860s, oceanography moved from yachts onto the decks of oceangoing vessels, and landlubber naturalists found themselves navigating the routines of a working ship's physical and social structures.

"Fathoming the Ocean" offers a rare and engaging look into our fascination with the deep sea and into the origins of oceanography--origins still visible in a science that focuses the efforts of physicists, chemists, geologists, biologists, and engineers on the common enterprise of understanding a vast, three-dimensional, alien space.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - name99 - LibraryThing

Very disappointing. The subject matter, the exploration of the deep ocean, should be fascinating, but the writing is leaden and boring, and only the mid-19th century is covered. Read full review

Fathoming the ocean: the discovery and exploration of the deep sea

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

During the 19th century, the ocean became something more than just a body of water to be sailed over and began to be studied for itself. In this study of America's and Britain's growing public and ... Read full review


1 Fathoming the Fathomless
2 The Undiscovered Country
3 Soundings
4 A Sea Breeze
5 Dredging the Moon
6 Small World
7 Epilogue

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About the author (2009)

Helen M. Rozwadowski is Assistant Professor of History and Coordinator of Maritime Studies, University of Connecticut at Avery Point.

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