Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 6:05 AM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments
  • Print

‘The Extreme Life of the Sea’: what lies beneath

In their new book, “The Extreme Life of the Sea,” marine biology professor Stephen Palumbi and his writer son Anthony Palumbi vividly portray the mysterious and awe-inspiring creatures that populate the ocean’s depths.


The Washington Post

advertising

‘The Extreme Life of the Sea’

by Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi

Princeton University Press, 225 pp., $27.95

Stanford University marine biology professor Stephen R. Palumbi has a theory about humans’ relationship with the ocean: Unless we get a sense of what happens beneath the surface, we will never bother to protect it. Teaming up with his son Anthony, a professional writer, Palumbi has written a book that depicts some of the sea’s most bizarre and mesmerizing creatures.

Drawing on decades of scientific research as well as a knack for storytelling, the authors convey what happens at the ocean depths without sugarcoating it. They reconstruct a battle between a bull whale and a giant mother squid in which “40 tons of flesh and hot blood collides” with a squid “at 10 feet per second. ... She rolls with the blow, wrapping her arms around the attacker’s head and jaws. Hooks tear long gaping wounds in his skin, layering fresh damage on top of chalky white scars. He’s no stranger to this kind of fight.”

The book also answers basic questions that many readers may have about some of the marine world’s most charismatic residents. How exactly do sharks grow their razor-sharp teeth, at a rate of one new set every seven to 10 days? This “tiny miracle of cellular engineering,” the Palumbis explain, starts as an unformed lump of tissue that becomes defined by a network of fibers and then is filled in by a bone-like material and covered in a hard seal of enamel.

The authors work hard at making their subject matter accessible to readers. Indeed, occasionally this stands out as one of the book’s few shortcomings: The authors pepper the text with too many analogies. But that’s a small complaint, given what this book accomplishes. It doesn’t just shed light on some of the most mysterious workings of sea; it does so with vivid prose while also managing to convey scientists’ current understanding of how and why these phenomena operate. If that doesn’t make people more invested in preserving the ocean, it’s hard to know what will.



Free 4-week trial, then $99 a year for unlimited seattletimes.com access. Try it now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times Historical Archives

Browse our newspaper page archives from 1900-1984


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►