In the Sea Library

“Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean” is written by Joy McCann and published by the University of Chicago Press in 2019

The Southern Ocean is a wild and elusive place, an ocean like no other. With its waters lying between the Antarctic continent and the southern coastlines of Australia, New Zealand, South America, and South Africa, it is the most remote and inaccessible part of the planetary ocean, the only part that flows around Earth unimpeded by any landmass. It is notorious amongst sailors for its tempestuous winds and hazardous fog and ice. Yet it is a difficult ocean to pin down. Its southern boundary, defined by the icy continent of Antarctica, is constantly moving in a seasonal dance of freeze and thaw. To the north, its waters meet and mingle with those of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans along a fluid boundary that defies the neat lines of a cartographer.

So begins Joy McCann’s Wild Sea, the remarkable story of the world’s remote Southern, or Antarctic, Ocean. Unlike the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic Oceans with their long maritime histories, little is known about the Southern Ocean. This book takes readers beyond the familiar heroic narratives of polar exploration to explore the nature of this stormy circumpolar ocean and its place in Western and Indigenous histories. Drawing from a vast archive of charts and maps, sea captains’ journals, whalers’ log books, missionaries’ correspondence, voyagers’ letters, scientific reports, stories, myths, and her own experiences, McCann embarks on a voyage of discovery across its surfaces and into its depths, revealing its distinctive physical and biological processes as well as the people, species, events, and ideas that have shaped our perceptions of it. The result is both a global story of changing scientific knowledge about oceans and their vulnerability to human actions and a local one, showing how the Southern Ocean has defined and sustained southern environments and people over time.

Beautifully and powerfully written, Wild Sea will raise a broader awareness and appreciation of the natural and cultural history of this little-known ocean and its emerging importance as a barometer of planetary climate change.”

This book was sent as a gift from Joy McCann to the Sea Library.

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