Monday, October 15, 2007

Rachel Carson: The Edge of the Sea

Today is Blog Action Day! Over 15,000 blogs all over the world are posting on topics that have something to do with the environment. So in honor of the day, I thought I'd draw your attention to one of my favorite nature books: Rachel Carson's The Edge of the Sea.

Scientist and ecologist Rachel Carson is famously the author of Silent Spring (a landmark book challenging the use of pesticides), and not-quite-so-famously the author of The Sense of Wonder (a short book about helping children develop a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world) which I have gushed about in the past.

The Edge of the Sea is a great read for anyone who likes to spend time mucking around in tide pools, or is curious about the strange creatures that live in them. The tidal area at the edge of the sea constantly shifting and moving...Ms. Carson tells us that the shoreline is not the exactly the same for any two consecutive days in a row!

Reading The Edge of the Sea, you will learn all kinds of interesting facts. Baby snails can be the size of a coffee grain. Starfish arms can break off and grow right back again. Limpets (cone-shaped snails) suction to the exact same "home" spot on a rock...every day during feeding time, they will be taken sometimes a mile or more away by the waves, but every day, each limpet returns to the exact same spot.

The interesting facts are one thing, and worth the read on their own. But the other thing that makes The Edge of the Sea so special is Rachel Carson's voice. She has a gift. She really did see the world with a very active "sense of wonder" and through her writing, she brings that world to us through her eyes. Eyes that can look at mucky, slimy seaweed a dozen times a day and still be amazed by the strange beauty of it:
It is a fantastic jungle, mad in a Lewis Carroll sort of way. For what proper jungle, twice every twenty-four hours, begins to sag lower and lower and finally lies prostrate for several hours only to rise again? Yet this is precisely what the rockweed jungles do. When the tide has retreated from the sloping rocks, when it has left the miniature seas of the tide pools, the rockweeds lie flat on the horizontal surfaces in layer above layer of sodden, rubbery fronds. From the sheer rock faces they hang down in a heavy curtain, holding the wetness of the sea, and nothing under their protective cover ever dries out.
If you've ever seen rockweed, during either high or low tide, you know the logistics of this to be true, but have you ever thought of it in quite that way? And if you haven't seen rockweed, didn't she just bring it alive in your imagination?

There is more information about Rachel Carson available at The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson and at the Rachel Carson Homestead (site for her birthplace and childhood home in Springdale, PA).

Here in Maine, you can visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Linda Lear's book, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, is also a terrific read.

Happy Blog Action Day! Now go muck about in some tide pools if you can!


Taylor said...

This book is, in my opinion, not a book that I enjoyed reading. It was sort of boring and confusing. The sad part is that I had to read it for a science class.

Unknown said...

I love this blog post. Rachel Carson is such a beautiful writer, thanks for reminding us that she loved seaweed!