Review: The Open Sea

March 18th, 2020
The Open Sea: The World of Plankton by (Sir) Alister Hardy, cover image from Amazon.

As a distraction from Coronavirus, I would like to present The Open Sea: The World of Plankton by (Sir) Alister Hardy. I recall borrowing a copy from my local library a great number of years ago, perhaps 15 years after its first publication (I believe) in 1958… It was one of the books that got me interested in Marine Biology (with some help from the televised under-sea explorations of a certain Jaques Coustea). Hardy provides a fascinating account of the search for, and study of, some of the weird and wonderful creatures that float about in the seas about us. The ingeneuous (commonly hand built) equipment to catch and keep these creatures alive, state of the art in the early 60’s is still the go-to for the amateur plankton hunter. Back then the black and white line drawings and occasional colour plate hinted at a world that was alien and exciting in my imagination…

Revisiting the publication now as a Kindle Edition (re-published in the Collins ‘New Naturalist’ series), I find it every bit as fascinating and informative; while I am now familiar with many of the coastal species described, there have been a few where the desciption has triggered a light bulb moment of ‘that was what I was looking at!’. I fear I must blame this book in a large part for my habit of keeping a small plankton net in my dive suit pocket, to deploy on long surface swims back to the van after a dive. A good dive keeps on giving with an interesting or novel capture to be discovered later under the microscope!

You can get the Kindle version without fear of infection from Amazon (about £10), or collect an (older or original!) edition second hand from ABE Books (they will deliver!).

Barry Kaye

Posted in Science, Uncategorized