Deep Water by James Bradley [8/10]

Deep Water: The World in the Ocean is the brilliant writer James Bradley’s fascination with oceans yoked to a deep need to turn the world around toward a carbon-free future. Comprehensively covering so many aspects of the seas, from the history of marine life, to the degradations of fishing, to , to the global shipping sector, to the likely demise of beautiful, essential coral reefs, and on and on, Deep Water is compelling mix of exposition and personal experience and reportage. Throughout, Bradley writes with lyrical, precise surety. One of the more fascinating chapters chronicles the fascinating, multi-layered history of the practice and pastime and sport of swimming. Bradley concludes that chapter with a “meditation” including: “When we swim our bodies become part of the tidal flow and movement of water, the great pulse of the planet’s systems, the act of giving ourselves over to their rhythms a form of communion, of embodied connectedness.” Lovely stuff indeed. I was fascinated by his coverage of the nightly “diel” vertical migration (up then down) of some 10 billion tonnes of sea life around the globe. The chapter on fish consciousness /intelligence/self-awareness reads like a fever dream of recognition: Bradley’s exploration of the umwelt/world (a term I learnt from Ed Yong’s An Immense World) is revelatory. And here he is on the type of shoreline familiar to all Australians: ”Beaches are sites of encounter, where sea meets land and land meets sea, each altering the other as the energy of the ocean is released.” Deep Water is wonderful and essential.

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