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Encyclopedia of the Sea
ISBN 0375403744 / 9780375403743 / 0-375-40374-4
Publisher Random House Inc
List price $35.00
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The world's oceans are vast, too vast for their components to be distilled comfortably into the pages of a single book. That said, Richard Ellis, a noted student of all matters pelagic, does an extraordinary job of gathering key points of the oceans' natural and human history in this fact-filled, desk-sized encyclopedia. Starting with abalone ("a large marine gastropod of the genus Haliotis, with a dishlike shell punctuated by a series of holes on the outer edge") and ending with zooxanthellae (a kind of pigmented protozoan that conducts photosynthesis), Ellis offers sparkling discussions on topics ranging from the red-footed booby (whose name, we learn, derives from the Spanish bobo and refers unflatteringly to the bird's apparent stupidity in not fleeing humans) to Captain William Kidd ("one of history's most notorious pirates," whose reputed buried treasures are still the objects of treasure hunters' dreams) and from the Hanseatic League (a seagoing, commercial federation of north German towns that once ruled the Baltic) to scrimshaw ("the carving done by American whalemen on whale bones and teeth or, less frequently, on the tusks of walruses").
Whether beachgoer or deep-sea explorer, if you have any interest at all in the ocean, you'll find this, like Ellis's many other books on sea life and lore, to be a useful and entertaining companion. --Gregory McNamee [via]