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Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean

“Written with intensity and excitement”, says the blurb on the front cover, and it is true. The vastness of this ocean is explored on so many different fronts by the author that the reader gains a deeper understanding of the powerful body of water. The boundaries that surround the Southern Ocean are vague but the effect it has on climate and environment are huge. Joy McCann has used many references and historical texts that make it very satisfying to read her notes at the back of the book. The chapters cover many related areas.

The first chapter looks at early theories about the oceans. Plato thought the ocean’s waters passed through the centre of the earth, and in the Old Testament it is mentioned that the ocean was created by God. The geological story of the ocean begins with the movement of the earth’s crust as it shifted over many millions of years. When the crust began to split apart, and when a rift occurred between the land masses Ocean water flooded in from the west and gave birth to the Southern Ocean. Early sailors and historians wrote of a sea where man drifts …”Under the permanent threat of hostile waters.” This excited readers from afar.

Many records and accounts of early sailings and sightings around the Southern Ocean are mentioned, such as George Shelvocke’s memoirs from 1719. In 1570 Abraham Ortelius produced one of the earliest world maps and showed land where the Southern Ocean is placed. James Cook’s travels and documents are outlined as he hunted for the Great South Land.

The next chapter looks at the wind and how it affects sailing, the environment and the weather. By now the British authorities were looking for faster ways to cross the ocean and decided that to achieve this goal they had to navigate further south into the “Furious Fifties.”  The higher the latitude the shorter the route. Gradually as steam ships became more common, it was easier and faster to cross the ocean but still not without danger. The chapter on Coasts looks at the many areas around the edge of the Southern Ocean, the people, botany and history and how the ocean serves the needs of the people.

“Ice”, is a chapter that is quite amazing in its scope. We discover the latest scientific research done on ice samples and learn also how the earliest mariners handled this natural wonder. The Emperor penguins breed on the ice, and many other creatures call this land home. Nutrients and iron leach from the ice into the water. This helps the growth of microscopic plants which are at the bottom of the food chain. There are so many fascinating facts and stories told in this researched and creatively written book it will be a great “go to,” book for many years.

Author Joy McCann
Publisher New South Publications
ISBN 9781742235738
Distributor New South Books
Released June 2018