17 Jun 2013

The Sea Around Us

I didn't know that Oceanography was a science until this year. I was aware of Marine Biology - I'd dated a cute and very clever marine biologist for a few years - but the study of the oceans as part of Earth Science was new to me before this amazing book. Isn't it great the way homeschool mummies get to learn along with their students? Happy smile.

Oceanography does cover marine organisms, of course, but it also studies ocean currents, waves, plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor; the chemical makeup of water, and the fluid mechanics of the sea. it covers biology, chemistry, physics, geology, physical geography and meteorology. Phew.  Pretty impressive!

AO6's scheduled book, The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson, is the classic marine science book. Despite having been written in 1951, more than 60 years ago, it is incredible how much of the scientific information is still current. The Deep Ocean truly is the last frontier - even in 2013. We know more about the moon that the ocean floor.

Carson's exquisite prose and eloquent writing style is inspirational. It is like reading poetry. She makes the oceans out to be magical, mysterious living organisms, and you can't help but be carried along by her enthusiasm. You know she loves what she is writing about. This may be the perfect Living Science book.  Then look at these vintage illustrations!

The Sea Around Us is unashamedly evolutionist, and the book begins with a description of the making of Earth and the emergence of life, from that worldview. We found that this first chapter provided a great jumping off point for a discussion of what many people believe, and it was good to discuss where we were in agreement, and where our views differ. Later chapters have covered the surface of the sea, the impact of climate, the mystery of the sea floor and the amazing geological structures that are so similar to those on land. Evolutionary content has not been an issue so far, but I suspect it might be later on.

Our book is the 1958 edition adapted for Young Readers by Anne Terry White. Apparently the 1991 edition contains an the additional chapter by Jeffrey Levinton that updates the oceanographic and biological information originally presented by Carson and discusses continental drift, coral reefs, the spread of the ocean floor, the deterioration of the oceans, and the mass extinction of sea life, amongst other issues. I wonder whether some Christians might find some of those topics rather controversial.

Since our book is so old, we've been turning to YouTube for our updated information. Oceanography lends itself so naturally to a visual presentation.
We trust much to pictures, lantern slides, cinematograph displays; but without labour there is no profit, and probably the pictures which remain with us are those which we have first conceived through the medium of words; pictures may help us to correct our notions, but the imagination does not work upon a visual presentation; we lay the phrases of a description on our palette and make our own pictures...

Charlotte Mason Towards A Philosophy of Education p340
This quote is often used to show Mason's disdain for the use of film. I don't think it says that. I think it says use literary methods first, but allows that pictures may help us correct our inaccurate imagination. It is absolutely impossible to imagine bioluminescence until you've seen it. Your imagination can never live up to God's amazing reality. Similarly, some of the amazing marine creatures, and even the phenomenal scale of the ocean floor. Video shows all of this beautifully.

So far were only up to Chapter 5 of this lovely book, but here are the videos we've used so far. They are just awe inspiring. The Heavens may declare the glory of God, but so, too, do his oceans.
I'll add to this post as we move through the book. Even if you're not reading along with us, the videos are worth a look as and for themselves. Amazing.

Chapter 1 - we discussed the differing views about how the world began here.

Chapter 2: The Secret Life of Plankton - Tierney Thys

Chapter 3: Fascinating TED talk. On bioluminescence. One evolutionary comment; some adult humour.

Chapter 4: Creatures of the Deep - The video we watched has been removed. This one may be okay.

Chapter 4: National Geographic's Drain the Ocean. Part one here.

Chapter 10: Ben Franklin and the Gulf Stream.


  1. :-) What! a life before Mr PD. So hard for us new friends to imagine!

  2. Jeanne, I just pinned this post so I could refer to it later. We are reading this book this summer. I so agree with your use of video to enhance your studies -- Miss Mason did not have this option, did she? What wonders we have access to that she most likely would have enjoyed.

  3. I would love for you to go into greater detail as to your discussion in regard to evolution. I like to hear how others approach it; it gives me ideas! :)

  4. Marvelous post! I'll have to listen to the Ted talk and will likely look around for our copy of the book. This books gives many AO homeschoolers fits--they are afraid it will rob their children of their faith. I find discussing things honestly only strengthens faith......

  5. This is magnificent, Jeanne. I am very much looking forward to the rest of your posts in this series. I am glad that you overcame your writers block. Thank you for sharing your plan with us.

  6. Thank you so much for the preview and the links. We are returning to Ambleside Year 6 after doing 6th grade with my eldest in a Classical/CM school, and I was wondering what to expect with this book. I'll definitely be referring back for updates and to utilize the links you've so generously mined and shared.

    I also agree with you Hopewell. One day our children will realize that we are fallible, broken human beings. If we parents have been fear-filled in our dealings with secular and atheistic people and ideas, over-sheltering our children and demonizing the world, we stand to lose them when they meet the happy-go-lucky secular humanist and the down-to-earth atheist evolutionist. Let your children see you deal honestly and respectfully with the other side, and then someday when you -are- the other side (heaven forbid), they'll have a blueprint for how it's done and the ability (hopefully) to hold to the life-ring of their faith in the rising tide of their emotions and the mainstream culture's siren song.

  7. Jeanne, I note this lovely book is the Children's edtion. Have you viewed the other one? I was simply wondering what the difference might be as I think this lovely book would be a nice addition to our home library and Book Depository have the adults one currently on special. Thanks

  8. Sorry, I haven't seen the adult version. AO recommend the Young Readers' Edition, and I found it at Abe. It is a marvellous book.


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