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Under the Sea Wind

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  514 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews

Silent Spring author Rachel Carson’s early masterwork brings to life the elegiac, subtle beauty of birds and the sea, blending her natural storytelling ability with clear-eyed science


In her first book, preeminent nature writer Rachel Carson tells the story of the sea creatures and birds that dwell in and around the waters along North America’s eastern coast—and the delic

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ebook, 304 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Open Road Integrated Media (first published 1941)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Chrissie
Having recently read Silent Spring, I wanted more of the author's fantastic writing.

Nature writing at its best in vivid, lyrical prose. She writes about ocean and shore life so you feel you are there. The reader follows birds, fish, crustaceans and even eel! You follow an interlude in these creatures’ respective lives. It is utterly amazing the extent to which Carson makes the reader feel part of their aquatic existence. Violent storms, dense fog and lulling, lapping seas under blue skies. Preda
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Claire McAlpine
The book started out as an assignment she completed in 1936, when she was an unemployed zoologist and freelance writer for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Asked to write an introduction to a brochure on marine life, she submitted an essay entitled “The World of Waters” neatly typed by her mother, as all her manuscripts would be.

The next day Carson sat in Higgins’s Washington D.C. office waiting for his verdict.The government ichthyologist knew at once that it was unsuitable. What he was reading wa
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Brian
Aug 23, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015_sow

The island lay in shadows only a little deeper than those that were swiftly stealing across the sound from the east. On its western shore the wet sand of the narrow beach caught the same reflection of palely gleaming sky that laid a bright path across the water from island beach to horizon. Both water and sand were the color of steel overlaid with the sheen of silver, so that it was hard to say where water ended and land began.


That's just beautiful, right? This is the opening paragraph in a 20
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Richard
Jan 07, 2016 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b-nature
Although famous today for Silent Spring, Rachel Carson had already made her name decades earlier. During the 1930s, as a young zoologist specialising in marine ecology, she helped pay the bills with a series of essays which appeared in newspapers such as the Boston Globe and attracted widespread praise. These led, in turn, to several books about the ocean, of which Under the Sea-Wind was the first.
It reads almost like a nature documentary, a narrative description (illustrated with pencil sketch
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Laura Little
Jul 06, 2014 Laura Little rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, nature
Before David Attenborough and nature television, there was Rachel Carson. What's so phenomenal about this 1941 book was that it was her first, published when she was in her mid-30s.

It can be challenging to read what we are so accustomed to seeing visually. However, Carson's narration is spectacular, taking the reader through ecosystems with the animals themselves as characters. I would say that Caron's writing actually eclipses nature film: it allows to push deeper beyond the exciting, shimmeri
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Paulfozz
A lyrical exploration of the wildlife of the eastern United States over the space of a year, mixing prose and science in a way reminiscent of the later books by Richard Fortey. Rachel incorporates elements of children's books in her way of naming animals and following their individual lives, yet this is just one aspect weaving through a poetic yet scientifically rigorous description of these coastal waters and of the abyss looming off-shore. Taking the perspective of the animals themselves allow ...more
Mark
Aug 16, 2010 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unbelievably beautiful. Its another of those books which demand to be read out loud. An extraordinary description of the life of rivers and seas. A prose love poem, you might say, to mother nature. If you love being inspired, then read this one.
Robin
Jan 08, 2009 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Rachel Carson’s first book (1941), and her personal favorite. In it she tells charming nature stories, poetically spoken yet full of scientific fact about ocean animals and the interrelatedness of life in ocean, estuary, and river. The characters are often individual mackerel, arctic owls, eels, etc. that are seen in the context of their entire ecosystem (a word originally coined by Carson). She looks at the changes in this ecosystem throughout seasons and lifecycles, from the viewpoint ...more
Skip Stoddard
Dec 25, 2013 Skip Stoddard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly scientific and detailed description of the life cycles and behaviors of a number of creatures that inhabit the water and air along our coastal zones. The main characters, a black skimmer (a shore bird), a mackerel, and an eel, are imbued with human thoughts and emotions that pull the reader in to their world. A fascinating, well written introduction to ecology.
Larry
Mar 11, 2008 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a natural classic; should be read by everyone who loves nature
John
Nov 17, 2016 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carson's first book is a beautiful tribute to the natural world, making one appreciative of its beauty and importance.
Last Ranger
Jan 02, 2013 Last Ranger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A Midsummer Night's Dream:

Reading Rachel Carson's first book, "Under the Sea Wind" (1941), is like reading poetry. Not so much a science book, even though the science therein is accurate, but more of an intimate look into the lives of the fish, birds and mammals that live in and around the sea. The text follows a continual narrative, spotlighting various animals as they go about their lives in a challenging environment. Carson's narrative shows that each animal is part a a larger picture, one th
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Maggie Hess
Feb 17, 2013 Maggie Hess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dear Rachel Carson,

Before I read Under the Sea-Wind, I looked into your other literature including your best known work, Silent Spring, and the lovely book you wrote for your nephew Roger, The Sense of Wonder. I read your works with the kind of respect I know only for five hundred year old oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from their ancient bows. You are the only writer I ever have read who knows how to bring the ocean that I know to me, into my grasps, simply through words. Honestly, I did n
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Hans
Jun 04, 2014 Hans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book that I picked up following a Google Doodle prompt. I am hoping to make my way through Carson's three Sea books and Silent Spring.

Clearly this is a classic (the cover says "Penguin Classics"). I enjoyed the brief introduction that told the story of how Carson came to write the book and how the advent of World War II delayed the "discovery" of this classic for a decade.

I really liked how she highlighted the circles of life. We more often see the circle of life where larger a
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Owain
Aug 20, 2016 Owain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great follow on to Carson's first book in the trilogy. Departing from the first book whose stride is measured in the eons of geological time this book takes a look at the sea frozen in its moment only a human generation or two ago. Here we are told the story of three species via the medium of a singular individual of their type. Carson tracks the migrations of the sanderling, the mackerel and the eel.

The narrative takes place as if each animal was a character in a novel and Carson follows all
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Elizabeth
Aug 27, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely. Not the most exciting or stimulating read, but Rachel Carson is a superb writer. In this book, she narrates scenes in the lives of various animals living in or around the ocean. Her characters are sandpipers, mackerel, eels, crabs, hawks. She brings to life their needs and desires, making it seem like more than just basic instinct and the will to survive. She describes the circle of life, and characters are born and die without emotion because that's just how the world works. And yet I k ...more
Nikki
The main problem I had with Under the Sea Wind was the fact that I like my non-fiction to be, let's say, less fictional. I know, crazy thought. While the information and details of each species detailed is accurate, Carson chose to personify and "follow" specific members of species and name them. It felt much more on par with a novel rather than a serious work of environmental non-fiction. This aspect may very well appeal to those looking for a lighter environmental read but I like less lyrical, ...more
Paula
Feb 28, 2010 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Rachel Carson writing before Silent Spring. No intimation yet of environmental disaster. The words “sea wind” are Carson’s shorthand for the encapsulation of all life within a single system. The sea is vast, as is aquatic life. Carson’s prose is lyrical yet precise (as Peter Matthiessen comments, setting the standard for all nature writers to follow). Two words come particularly to mind: meal and migration. From diatom, copepod and algae to whale, shore bird and eel, life is moving and eating. H ...more
Jen
Like all dutiful environmentalists, I had tried to read Silent Spring years back. I'm not sure if others also had this experience, but I found it extremely depressing and also not very engaging- a difficult read at best. Recently I learned that Under the Sea Wind (Carson's first book) had always been her favorite. It's described as a story about ocean ecology told from the perspective of the sea creatures themselves-- a totally factual story that reads like fiction. I was sold. Let me tell you, ...more
Mark
Dec 17, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
Written in 1941, my copy is a 60 cent paperback from the Signet Science Library that was given to me in 1964 by my Aunt Jackie. This copy was from the 6th printing in the year that Rachel Carson died. I don't know why I still have it, but I decided it was probably time to read it. The book's subtitle is "a naturalist's picture of ocean life", and the author tells a series of stories each one revolving around a named animal, Silverbar the sanderling, Scomber the mackerel and Anguilla the eel. Eac ...more
Ann
Mar 27, 2012 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love the beach and ocean.
Recommended to Ann by: Greatdecisions
I am participating in the Foreign Policy Association's GREAT DECISIONS and one of the topics is "State of the oceans:waves of change". After attending this session I wanted to read about the oceans. Carson wrote this book in 1941 but it is so easy to read and deals with the cycles of the ocean. She talks about the birds and fish that depend on the ocean and their life cycles. She makes the species that she is discussing into a character and I got caught up in the life cycle of each as she discus ...more
Anna
A series of interconnected chapters and vignettes following the lives of creatures living in and around the sea - animals and plants from algae to whales, but focusing on some fish and birds. Carson explains animal life cycles in an engaging narrative fashion and tells how they connect to the lives of other creatures and how they are affected by the seasons and changes of the earth.
It was fascinating and compelling, I did not want to put it down, and it made me want to be at the beach in the wo
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Mary Halpenny-killip
I'm not entirely sure that this counts. I only read three quarters. The further I got away from my relaxing August week on Cape Cod, the less patience I had for reading about the life cycles, migration and birthing patterns, survival of the fittest amongst the creatures--both of the sky and under the sea. But, I did gain a great appreciation of ocean/marsh life--above and below. I'll never wade into the water again without thinking about all the millions of creatures present, or far down below, ...more
Sarah
A poetic and scientifically sound look at sea life in the Atlantic. I think what I enjoyed most about this book was learning how it came to be in the foreword by Linda Lear. It is obvious that Carson was so deliberate and thoughtful as a writer and a scientist.

From the foreword:

Carson's mother flawlessly typed the finished manuscript, and Carson sent it off on New Year's Eve 1940. Editors at Simon & Schuster still tell the story of how Under the Sea-Wind was the only manuscript ever received
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Shelli Foth
Jun 04, 2015 Shelli Foth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never thought the life of an eel, or any other type of bird or marine creature would prove to be so interesting. On a hut for Silent Spring by the same author I ran across this book at a local bookstore and figured I would give it a shot. Carson writes beautifully and poetically, simultaneously giving the reader a great respect for the creatures that she is writing of, and teaching them scientific terms and facts about the creatures. I love reading books where I don't notice I'm learning thing ...more
Koroviev
Mar 21, 2014 Koroviev rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned

It is perhaps aimed at much younger readers - I think so because she gives human names to the animals, thereby making them characters and tells their story. The names are usually male - I hate this practice. The default is not male and while I understand that she was writing "way back then", but there are a lot of people who do so even now i.e. refer to animals by default as "he". "It" is more suitable. Of course, if I was learning a lot from the book, I would have overlooked this issue.

I felt l
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Kiwi
Dec 10, 2013 Kiwi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished reading this one. I loved it. I am a huge fan of personification and sort of 'general' stories--not epics, but every-day stories of every-day creatures and people. This was a lovely, natural version of that for the environment and the critters found in one section of it, in the sea.

So pleased to have finally read this one. I think it's going to be my favourite of hers. Well, perhaps after Sense of Wonder, which I read whenever I feel unsure.

Rachel owns quite a bit of my heart an
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Gordon Harris
Sep 09, 2012 Gordon Harris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many years ago, and still remember it as my introduction to environmentalism. It is a magical book which follows the path of a North American eel from the river in which it was hatched to the Sargasso Sea.

It points out how things in Nature are interconnected and how much Mankind has upset this fine balance.

Although this book was one of, if not the first, "environmental" book, it still is important in the present time when many of its predictions have come true.

I would suggest t
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Teenhulk
Jun 23, 2008 Teenhulk rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh.

"Glumdor the clam skittered away using his jets, as Biltrix the sea otter gave chase! Biltrix used his mighty paws to clobber Glumdor against the rock clutched tightly to Biltrix's chest. As Glumdor's life seeped away, Biltrix was nourished with renewed vigor, to face another day in the heaving seas..."

Not an actual quote, but kinda how she writes in this book. Silly personifications and named characters abound unceasingly, and not in a "Watership Down" or "Charlotte's Web" kinda way, but ra
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500 Great Books B...: Under the Sea-Wind - Rachel Carson - Claire 2 12 Sep 21, 2015 08:11AM  
  • Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas
  • The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One
  • Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America's First National Park
  • The Unnatural History of the Sea
  • The Empty Ocean
  • The Ocean World (Abradale)
  • The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat
  • Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution
  • Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature
  • The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species
  • The Trees in My Forest
  • Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
  • Life in the Undergrowth
  • Nature Writings: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth / My First Summer in the Sierra / The Mountains of California / Stickeen / Essays
  • Telling Our Way to the Sea: A Voyage of Discovery in the Sea of Cortez
  • The Sea Inside
  • The Peregrine
  • The Malay Archipelago
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Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won
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“Some, perhaps, would fall by the way. Some, old or sick, would drop out of the caravan and creep away into a solitary place to die; others would be picked off by gunners, defying the law for the fancied pleasure of stopping in full flight a brave and fiercely burning life; still others, perhaps, would fall in exhaustion into the sea...In them burned one more the fever of migration, consuming with its fires all other desires and passions.” 0 likes
“In the fish world many things are told by sound waves.” 0 likes
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