How to Read Water|
Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea
The Experiment, LLC, 2016, 394 pp, HC, $19.95
Anthropologist (and a personal hero of mine) Loren Eiseley observed, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." Many scientists now believe that water is so elemental to our universe that it may be many millions of years older than our solar system.
Author, Tristan Gooley, is also an explorer and a navigator. He has led expeditions on five continents and is the "only living person to have flown and sailed singlehandedly across the Atlantic." I must assume he knows where of he speaks...and that he knows the answers to the questions he asks in his fascinating book.
The second sentence on page one leads to his first question: "We can look at the same stretch of water every day for a year and not see the same thing twice. How does one compound behave with such diversity?" He observes that even good books about water treat it as a container "Water is seen as a box that creatures live in or a window through which we can view things." The table of contents assures readers that that is not the author's viewpoint. "How to See the Pacific in a Pond", "Currents and Tides" are reassuring chapter titles, and every chapter contains gems of keen observation of the behavior of water under a wide variety of conditions.
Gooley further justifies his inquiry with the words of master navigator, Chad Kalepa Baybayan:
"It is really a pretty unique set of skills that one would aspire to becoming proficient at. What it truly does is sharpen the human mind, intellect, and ability to decipher codes in the environment...For me, it's the most euphoric feeling that I have ever felt."
Gooley has also written an academic paper published in the Royal Institute of Navigation called "Nature's Radar."
His voyage helped to confirm that the birds and other natural signs could be used as an effective way of gauging the distance from land just as the Vikings asserted. "Shortly after the paper was published, I was done a huge favor by the military who condensed the paper into a few lines that are included in the survival flip charts of the UK military aircraft, to wit:
'If you count more than ten birds in a random five minute period you are within forty miles of land and if you count two or fewer then you are more than forty miles from land and in between, you can't be sure.'"
Of course, we all know that the military cannot afford romance. Mr. Gooley teaches us how to read the water in a lively and delightful way...enjoy as you learn.