When I began my search for the most influential books for aspiring marine biologists, ‘Mapping the Deep’ by Robert Kunzig was one of the most frequently recommended. And as I turned the final page of Kunzig’s extensive account of the history of ocean science, I could certainly see why.
The book begins by taking us back to the origin of our oceans: space. Through vibrant explanations of the big bang, the formation of planets, and the role of comets in supplying a young Earth with its water, Space and the Ocean treats the reader to a powerful opening and a powerful incentive to read on.
‘Mapping the Deep’ then takes us on a journey encompassing all of the greatest discoveries in ocean science, from the very first scientific voyages, all the way up to the big bad of the modern era: climate change.
Sounding the Depths details the works of countless historic figures, from Charles Bonneycastle who attempted some of the first seafloor mappings using explosives, to Charles Wyville Thomson who led the H.M.S. Challenger over 68,000 nautical miles on what is widely considered to be the first oceanographic expedition.
Building on the history of seafloor mapping, The Rift in the Atlantic introduces us to Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen, whose combined efforts led to the discovery of a “V-shaped notch” at the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. This discovery led to the acceptance of continental drift and thus represented a tremendous shift in mindsets worldwide.
A Map of the World continues the story of Tharp and Heezen, detailing their efforts in creating the first bathymetric map of the Atlantic Ocean.
The following several chapters diverted the attention from oceanography and delved into the realm of marine biology. Reliving the discovery of hydrothermal vents and the discovery of life where it was least expected, to the history of deep-sea ecology, ‘Mapping the Deep’ leaves nothing to be desired and caters to all ocean-lovers.
My personal favourite chapter was Animal Lights which explores the phenomenon of bioluminescence and inspires the sense of exploration that would make anyone want to become an ocean scientist.
Despite now being over 20 years old, ‘Mapping the Deep’ manages to remain relevant with its final chapters, The Climate Switch and Time and the Ocean which delve into some of the implications of mankind that are now more important than ever.
It is no wonder why ‘Mapping the Deep’ is one of the most successful ocean science books, not least due to its huge demographic. Whether you are unsure of which discipline you wish to pursue in ocean science, already an expert in one field, or even if you just have a general interest in natural history, ‘Mapping the Deep’ is a skilfully crafted account into the developments of ocean science. If you’re studying the seas, this is certainly a must-read.
Written by Lucas King