Monday, August 15, 2011
Last month we read The Tiger, a book about the confrontation between humans and Amur tigers in Russia's Far East. It's author, John Vaillant, says his writing explores "collisions between human ambition and the natural world." That phrase could also describe the relationship between giant rogue waves and the meteorologists, oceanographers, physicists, ship insurers, ship salvagers, and surfers who study them, work with their results, and, in the case of surfers, actively seek them out. To write The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, journalist Susan Casey followed these brave and, some would say, crazy people around the globe to learn about unpredictable waves that swallow ships, destroy coastal communities, and entice extreme athletes to take the ride of their lives.
Casey notes that until very recently, scientifically recorded evidence for these waves was not available, and the waves were part of the lore of the sea along with mermaids, with very few survivors left to tell the tales. Casey cites a statistic from 2000 that an average of two large ships sink every week in the world's oceans, some disappearing without a trace. She also notes that these waves are possibly connected to climate change, particularly global warming, with serious implications for the heavily populated communities that live along the world's coasts. But especially intriguing to Casey, herself a competitive swimmer in college and beyond and author of a book about great white sharks, a woman who said in an interview with Esquire, "The ocean is my church," are the elite surfers who ride these waves. Casey asks, "What kind of person drops in on Mother Nature's biggest tantrums for fun? What drives him? And since he has gone into that dark heart of the ocean and felt its beat in a way that sets him apart, what does he know about this place that the rest of us don't?"
With thrilling prose and dramatic narrative events, Casey evokes the beauty, power, terror, and mystery of the sea and helps readers understand that "waves are the original primordial force." A reviewer for The Globe and Mail says The Wave is "a powerful, articulate ride into a world you never knew existed but that you will never, never forget." We hope you will join our discussion: Tuesday, September 6, at 6:30 p.m. at Main Library; Thursday, September 22, at 11:00 a.m. at West Ashley Branch Library; and here on the blog.
Want to see a giant wave in action but don't want to get too close? Go to YouTube and type "giant waves" in the search box!