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Under the Sea-Wind (1941)

de Rachel Carson

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Séries: Life of the Sea Trilogy (1)

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6621032,959 (3.86)29
The special mystery and beauty of the sea is the setting for Rachel Carson's memorable portrait of the sea birds and sea creatures that inhabit the eastern coasts of North America. In a sequence of riveting adventures along the shore, within the open sea, and down in the twilight depths, Rachel Carson introduces us to the winds and currents of the ocean as revealed in the lives of Scomber, the mackerel and Anguilla, the eel. Life for them a continuous miracle, a series of life-and-death victories played out among strange and often terrifying life forms far below the surface of the sea. Under the Sea Wind is a classic wilderness adventure to which all nature writing is compared. The hero of Under the Sea Wind is soon seen to be life itself, that quicksilver prize granted, for a brief time only, to the clever and the fortunate.… (mais)
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Written in 1941, my copy is a 60 cent paperback from the Signet Science Library that was given to me in 1964 by my Aunt Jackie. This copy was from the 6th printing in the year that Rachel Carson died. I don't know why I still have it, but I decided it was probably time to read it. The book's subtitle is "a naturalist's picture of ocean life", and the author tells a series of stories each one revolving around a named animal, Silverbar the sanderling, Scomber the mackerel and Anguilla the eel. Each story moves in place and time with the migration and life history of the animal. Description of the encountered plants, animals, weather and geography creates a tapestry of the sea and seashore. No words are wasted and the reader is drawn into a vast natural history that is much larger than this short book. Brilliant. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
I found myself charmed by this novel. It’s almost as if you’re watching a nature documentary, but in the form of a book—not the most eloquent way to put it, but you get the idea. Following the eyes and lives of various water-based creatures, Carson weaves a captivating story about nature. Only rating it 4 instead of 5 because some of the prose was written in a confusing manner, and some sections of the novel were a bit slow despite its relatively short length.

Still, all in all, it’s a lovely read which I recommend. ( )
  carr0tmunch | Jun 25, 2023 |
18. Under the Sea Wind by Rachel Carson
reader: C. M. Hébert
published: 1941
format: 5:46 audible audio* (~137 pages of original paperback)
acquired: March 5 listened: Mar 5-14
rating: 4
genre/style: Nature theme: random audio
locations: Atlantic Coast
about the author: 1907 –1964, born on a family farm near Springdale, Pennsylvania. Carson was an American marine biologist, writer, and conservationist whose influential book Silent Spring (1962) and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

*The audiobook length is 6:38, but the glossary started with 52 minutes left and I stopped there. The original paperback is 157 pages.

Another classic, but one again completely different.

I didn't know what to expect here in Rachel Carson's first book, from 1941, published shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I learned in the [The Book of Eels] by Patrick Svensson that Carson wrote an essay as a contribution for a book on coastal animals and was told that what she wrote wasn't a good fit for the book, but that she might try the Atlantic Monthly. She did, it got published and she expanded it into this book. I didn't know what that meant. Svensson has really nice things to say about Carson, and that's why I picked this up.

So, unprepared, I started, and an elegant-paced reader read to me:

The island lay in shadows only a little deeper than those that were swiftly stealing across the sound from the east. On its western shore the wet sand of the narrow beach caught the same reflection of palely gleaming sky that laid a bright path across the water from island beach to horizon. Both water and sand were the color of steel overlaid with the sheen of silver, so that it was hard to say where water ended and land began.


Carson tells her natural stories without introduction, explanation, purpose, or any authorial intervention. No commentary, no authorial side notes and presence. She just begins to tell us, and she never pauses to talk to the reader about what she's doing or where her information comes from, or what her message is; she stops only to change location for the next chapter. Each coastal environment is captured by a string of striking prose on natural experience and sensations - the sights, sounds, feelings, sensations present and absent, animal awareness, its limitations. There is a sense of these animals' fragile existence.

Each chapter centers on a named animal. So, everything is personified.

On the south beach of the island, where water no deeper than a man’s hand ran over gently ribbed bottom, Rynchops began to wheel and quarter over the shallows. He flew with a curious, lilting motion, lifting his wings high after the downstroke. His head was bent sharply so that the long lower bill, shaped like a scissor blade, might cut the water.

The blade or cutwater plowed a miniature furrow over the placid sheet of the sound, setting up wavelets of its own and sending vibrations thudding down through the water to rebound from the sandy bottom. The wave messages were received by the blennies and killifish that were roving the shallows on the alert for food. In the fish world many things are told by sound waves. Sometimes the vibrations tell of food animals like small shrimps or oar-footed crustaceans moving in swarms overhead. And so at the passing of the skimmer the small fishes came nosing at the surface, curious and hungry. Rynchops, wheeling about, returned along the way he had come and snapped up three of the fishes by the rapid opening and closing of his short upper bill.


Striking prose and simple format. Carson imagines the experiences of her birds fish, etc. using the information of her time, 1941, which was a lot of information. No purpose is presented, but the reader should understand they are learning something. And the reader can't but help notice the poetic sense of experience. If you happen to drift, the narrative forgives, and experience maintained by that voice. I can't promise I diligently captured the full story details, but I'm glad I stopped here. It's a curious audio experience, with an exceptionally good reader (C. M. Hébert) who joyfully, after the briefest pause for affect, calls out all the distinct bird sounds.

Ah-h-h-h, called the black skimmer. Ha-a-a-a! Ha-a-a-a!


2023
https://www.librarything.com/topic/348551#8097670 ( )
  dchaikin | Mar 19, 2023 |
Oh, what a nice little book. Another perfect one for reading on a deck looking out over the ocean, so I was very glad that I saved it up for such an occasion. ( )
  JBD1 | Jul 20, 2021 |
Although famous today for Silent Spring, Rachel Carson had already made her name decades earlier. During the 1930s, as a young zoologist specialising in marine ecology, she helped pay the bills with a series of essays which appeared in newspapers such as the Boston Globe and attracted widespread praise. These led, in turn, to several books about the ocean, of which Under the Sea-Wind was the first.
    It reads almost like a nature documentary, a narrative description (illustrated with pencil sketches by Howard Frech) of the wildlife of the western Atlantic and adjacent coastline. More nonfiction than fiction, it has no plot - unless you count the tumultuous births, lives and deaths of the natural world itself as the plot. It is, though, filled with characters: Silverbar the sandpiper, Scomber the mackerel, Anguilla the eel, and what Carson gives us is an utterly realistic impression of both their lives - what it's actually like to be a shore bird or fish - and of the ecology of it all, how it all works, its interconnectedness (a more familiar idea nowadays than it was back in the 1930s). For me, one thing which came across particularly vividly was the small fry - copepods, shelled protozoa, the miniscule larvae of jellyfish and crabs - usually lumped together as 'plankton'; it's like peering down a microscope tube at a rich, bustling little world of jewel-like entities, a world exquisite and deadly in equal measure.
    Of course, this is a glimpse of the rivers and seas as they were back in the late 1930s, i.e. somewhere along the scale between the original pre-human superabundance and today's polluted and almost fishless wastes; reading this, I found myself hoping that Carson can't see from beyond the grave what has been done to the oceans she loved.
    And that is what comes across here most clearly of all: how much she loved the sea and everything that lives in it - it shows in every sentence, page after brilliant page. One reason the prose is so good is that every line was read out loud, for its rhythm, as she went (I don't really use audiobooks, but I can imagine this being a stunning listen). It also changed my picture of the author: from here on I'll think of Rachel Carson, only second as a scientist and environmental inspiration, first and foremost as a world-class author. ( )
2 vote justlurking | Jul 4, 2021 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Rachel Carsonautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Frech, HowardIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Hébert, C. M.Narradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Hines, BobIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lear, LindaIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Wagner, MiriamNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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The special mystery and beauty of the sea is the setting for Rachel Carson's memorable portrait of the sea birds and sea creatures that inhabit the eastern coasts of North America. In a sequence of riveting adventures along the shore, within the open sea, and down in the twilight depths, Rachel Carson introduces us to the winds and currents of the ocean as revealed in the lives of Scomber, the mackerel and Anguilla, the eel. Life for them a continuous miracle, a series of life-and-death victories played out among strange and often terrifying life forms far below the surface of the sea. Under the Sea Wind is a classic wilderness adventure to which all nature writing is compared. The hero of Under the Sea Wind is soon seen to be life itself, that quicksilver prize granted, for a brief time only, to the clever and the fortunate.

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