Under the Sea-Wind: a book review


Under the Sea-Wind by Rachel Carson (1941)

I recently re-read the classic 1941 book Under the Sea-Wind by the marine biologist and well-known conservationist Rachel Carson.

This superb book is written in a wonderfully lyrical – almost poetic – style, as in this passage introducing the bird Rynchops niger:

With the dusk a strange bird came to the island from its nesting grounds on the outer banks. Its wings were pure black, and from tip to tip their spread was more than the length of a man’s arm. It flew steadily and without haste across the sound, its progress as measured and as meaningful as that of the shadows which little by little were dulling the bright water path. The bird was called Rynchops, the black skimmer.

As he neared the shore of the island the skimmer drifted closer to the water, bringing his dark form into strong silhouette against the gray sheet, like the shadow of a great bird that passed unseen above. Yet so quietly did he approach that the sound of his wings, if sound there were, was lost in the whisper song of the water turning over the shells on the wet sand.

Under the Sea-Wind has been described as one of the “definitive works of American nature writing.” Carson’s own goal for the book was “to make the sea and its life as vivid a reality for those who may read the book as it has become for me during the past decade,” and she succeeded admirably. Everyone who is interested in creatures of the air or sea should read this little gem.

The book is also beautifully illustrated – in two ways. My Penguin version has the drawings by Bob Hines from the 1991 edition (such as the great blue heron above), but the more recent Penguins return to the original pen-and-ink illustrations by Howard Frech.

* * * * *
Under the Sea-Wind by Rachel Carson: 5 stars

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4 thoughts on “Under the Sea-Wind: a book review

  1. Pingback: Kitchen chemistry: three books | Scientific Gems

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