Encyclopedia of the Sea by Knopf

Encyclopedia of the Sea by Knopf

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Description of Encyclopedia of the Sea by Knopf

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Manufacturer Description

From one of the world's leading experts on the sea comes this ocean-sized compendium of aquatic life and lore. Richard Ellis--who is also recognized as America's foremost painter of marine subjects--gives us a masterful synthesis of years of investigation and tens of thousands of disparate sources. The result is the first comprehensive, fully illustrated, and highly readable reference on almost everything that is known about the sea.

Ellis's research has taken him all over the world--from Nantucket to Patagonia, from Newfoundland to New Zealand. Now he leads us on a great journey: from the amazing diversity of the creatures of the oceans to the birds who inhabit the skies above them; from the little-known realms of marine geography to the men and women who have bravely explored them; from the fabulous legends the sea has inspired through the ages to the intriguing evolution of the tools of nautical navigation.

With more than 450 of the author's own drawings and paintings accompanying the text, Ellis reveals the many wonders of the oceans--abalone, zooxanthellae, and everything in between. We learn about the peculiar behavior of Vampyroteuthis infernalis (the "vampire squid from hell") and about Mocha Dick, the real sperm whale that may have inspired Melville's Moby-Dick; where the crown-of-thorns starfish gets its name and how the rare coelacanth, cousin to a species extinct for 70 million years--and one of the most mispronounced fish in the sea--was rediscovered. We visit lovely and exotic locations from Venice to Ni'ihau (Hawaii's "forbidden isle"), and consider both the fearsome kraken (a mythical sea monster often seen by Scandinavian clergymen) and the notorious real-life pirate Captain Kidd (whose hidden treasure was never found).

Exhaustive, concise, and entertaining, the Encyclopedia of the Sea is invaluable as an all-inclusive, one-volume source for anyone interested in the sea, its inhabitants, and man's exploration of its mysteries.

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