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Reflections on a Century of Exploration

Wolf H. Berger

Publication Year: 2009

The past one hundred years of ocean science have been distinguished by dramatic milestones, remarkable discoveries, and major revelations. This book is a clear and lively survey of many of these amazing findings. Beginning with a brief review of the elements that define what the ocean is and how it works—from plate tectonics to the thermocline and the life within it—Wolf H. Berger places current understanding in the context of history. Essays treat such topics as beach processes and coral reefs, the great ocean currents off the East and West Coasts, the productivity of the sea, and the geologic revolution that changed all knowledge of the earth in the twentieth century.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

One of the major events celebrating the centennial year of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (2003) was a reunion and symposium commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Scripps’s great MidPac Expedition and its predecessor, Capricorn. ...

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Introduction: Coping with a Sea of Change

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pp. 1-6

What ocean scientists do has changed drastically in recent years. Not only are we using tools undreamed of a few decades ago, tools that produce immense data floods of entirely new types of observations, but also now the very objects of study have become moving targets. ...

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1. Discovering the Ocean: Of Fish and Ships and People

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pp. 7-30

Lobster, scallop, and tuna are among the more expensive items on the seafood menu, and for good reasons. We like to eat these things, and there are many of us, and not so many of them any more. In fact, with regard to fish suitable for fine dining, there are now roughly 10 times fewer in the sea than only a few decades ago.1 ...

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2. A Portrait of the Ocean Planet: Elements of Ocean Literacy

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pp. 31-62

Earth literacy has at least one big benefit: a sense of delight at living on this very special planet. Also, clearly, Earth literacy is useful when trying to follow discussions about human impacts on the planet and what to do about it.1 Knowledge of the ocean is crucial to Earth literacy. ...

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3. Life at the Edge of a Fertile Sea: The Birthplace of Marine Science

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pp. 63-94

Seabirds are in evidence along practically all coasts and invite much observation and marveling about different life histories of these feathered vertebrates. Some breed locally and raise their young in full view (fig. 3.1). Others stop over on long migrations, using marine wetlands to rest and to feed. ...

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4. Of Coral Reefs and Atolls: Stone Gardens of Tropical Seas

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pp. 95-124

Reef-forming stony corals potentially can grow everywhere in the tropical and subtropical realm of the planet—about one-third of its surface— where the water is warm throughout the year (greater than 20 C). ...

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5. The Zen of the Beach: Musings on a River of Sand

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pp. 125-150

Millions enjoy these simple delights every year. They come and spread their blankets on the sand and watch the children build sand castles, fated to be washed away by the waves of the rising tide. They watch the shorebirds hunting for worms and crabs hidden within the sand. ...

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6. Unraveling the Gulf Stream Puzzle: On a Warm Current Running North

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pp. 151-184

It moves warm water northward, from the Gulf of Mexico into the northern North Atlantic, on the way entraining warm water from the Sargasso Sea. It is one of the two most powerful warm currents on the planet.1 The heat it transports feeds the storms of the northern Atlantic and helps maintain low air pressure ...

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7. Sardines and the California Current: On a Cold Current Running South

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pp. 185-214

The California Current brings cold water south along the sunny parts of the West Coast, and it does so while moving surface waters offshore (fig. 7.1). As a consequence, additional cold water rises from the thermocline and below, producing a narrow cold strip of highly productive waters in sight of the land. ...

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8. Meadows and Deserts of the Sea: On the Elusive Concept of Ocean Productivity

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pp. 215-244

Production varies widely in the sea; it is largely controlled by nutrient supply and the availability of sunlight. The crucially important nutrients are phosphate (fig. 8.1) and nitrate (which has a distribution similar to that of phosphate), as well as silicate (which tends to follow the same distribution patterns but with important exceptions). ...

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9. Of Whales and Sharks and Giant Squid: Reflections on the Big, the Strange, and the Powerful

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pp. 245-278

Modern whales arose within the last 30 million years or so, as a result of the cooling of the planet, which changed the productivity patterns of the sea in ways favorable for the development of large size. This is true both for whales that hunt (toothed whales) and for whales that filter the water containing small fish and krill and other plankton (baleen whales). ...

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10. The Deep, the Cold, the Dark: Life at the End of the Line

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pp. 279-310

Living in the dark is the normal state of affairs on our planet: the dark and cold waters below the sunlit surface layer of the sea constitute the largest life habitat on Earth. This habitat is largely a desert, except at the margins, including the outer shelf and upper continental slope. ...

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11. Seeing in the Dark: A Sound Approach to Exploration

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pp. 311-340

Sensing sound in the sea is a strategy for survival that is geologically ancient, going back to the time when fish evolved a lateral-line system for detecting pressure waves, several hundred million years ago. The most ancient of marine mammals, the toothed whales, have lived by their skills as echo-hunters for millions of years. ...

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12. Mountains, Trenches, Sunken Islands: The Great Revolution in Earth Science

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pp. 341-372

What do the mountains of the Sierra Nevada have in common with the San Andreas Fault System of California and with the island chain of Hawaii (fig. 12.1)? They are among the large linear features that characterize the surface of our planet, and that result from the motions of large pieces of real estate called plates. ...

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13. The Ocean's Memory of the Ice Ages: The Endless Cycles of Climate Change

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pp. 373-404

We live in an ice age, geologically speaking. Some considerable portion of the water on this planet is locked up in ice, at high latitudes (fig. 13.1).1 More precisely, we live in a warm period within a long series of ice age fluctuations. ...

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14. Abyssal Memories: A Thousand Holes in the Bottom of the Sea

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pp. 405-438

The deep ocean has memories going back 100 million years, and more. Ramming a steel tube into the seafloor is fine for getting samples for the last 1 percent of that. But to get the whole story one needs to use a floating drilling platform, a ship with a huge derrick over a hole in the center of the vessel, ...

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15. Global Warming and the Ocean: Human Impact on a Greenhouse Planet

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pp. 439-470

Our planet has life because of greenhouse gases in the air. They keep Earth warm, so that water can flow and clouds can form to bring rain. Without these gases, most of the planet would be covered with thick masses of ice, and the air would be dry. The two most important greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide. ...

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Epilogue: The Great Trends in Exploration and the Challenges Ahead

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pp. 471-478

The difficulty in attempting to present a coherent picture of ocean sciences is that there is no such coherent picture—oceanography is whatever scientists interested in the ocean happen to do. Depending on the changing interests of the scientists practicing the art, ocean science can readily change focus and has done so many times over the last century. ...

Appendix 1: Units Used in the Ocean Sciences

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pp. 479-480

Appendix 2: Aspects of Ocean Chemistry

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pp. 481-482

Appendix 3: Overview of Major Groups of Important Marine Organisms

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pp. 483-488

Appendix 4: Geologic Time Scale

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pp. 489-490

Appendix 5: Topographic Statistics

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pp. 491-494

Figure Sources and References

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pp. 495-500


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pp. 501-520

E-ISBN-13: 9780520942547
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520247789

Page Count: 536
Publication Year: 2009