November 28, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Samuel Lickiss reviews an unsettling exploration of science and history in our oceans' mysterious depths.

mappingRobert Kunzig shows us the sheer splendour of our oceans in this fascinating book that documents the key developments in ocean science. Three hundred million cubic miles of salt water, mountain-drowning depths and mysterious boat-swallowing phenomena – the pioneers of ocean science were up against huge challenges. However, determining the prevailing winds and ocean currents opened up rich new worlds ripe for trade and conquest.

Nowadays, ocean explorers are discovering the irreversible damage our oceans have experienced. Crashing fish stocks, ocean acidification and coral bleaching are stark signs of our struggling fragile Earth.

Kunzig continually returns to the theme of how little we know about our oceans, and how daunting that is on a planet faced with global warming. Crammed full of history and science, it’s not the most elegantly written book, but it’s certainly never dull.

Kunzig makes the reader use their imagination as he guides us through the alien ecology of the deep sea. He details its violent, ephemeral features that are constantly being shaped by powerful geological forces. What we have here is a meticulously researched book written with passion. Kunzig shows us how we have learnt about chemical, physical and biological processes that we depend upon for our survival on terra firma.

I was left unsettled. After 216 pages documenting the story of ocean science, Kunzig has really revealed that our knowledge remains immensely fractured. Our seas remain mysterious and that the repercussions of global warming are still broadly unknown.

Our understanding of ocean science needs to improve if we are to respond to these challenges appropriately. Reading this book would be a good way to dip your toes into this extensive world.


Samuel Lickiss is studying for an MSc in Science Communication

Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science by Robert Kunzig is available on Amazon (ISBN: 978-0953522712)