Monday, December 10, 2012

Scientific thinking

Far From Shore: Chronicles of anOpen Ocean Voyage by Sophie Webb is a detailed and quiet account of four months spent on a research ocean vessel collecting data about various marine animals (from plankton, various species of fish and tuna, dolphins and whales to sea birds).  The data collected will eventually be studied for many reasons but the primary purpose is to see whether populations of dolphins affected by purse-seine fishing have started to recover.

This four month journal certainly give us a good idea what it’s like to be a marine biologist/naturalist involved in such a research project.  Besides enjoying the beautiful water and wildlife, there are immense stretches of tedium, little privacy and down time from work (except when it storms or the ship stops for supplies at various ports).  Detailed descriptions of the ship’s layout and explanations of nautical and scientific terms are also included.

The author’s illustrations (completed while onboard) also give us visuals to show us what she sees as well as what she imagines. For example, the marine life that is below water is displayed to give us a sense of life at great depths, such as a sperm whale chasing squid or what  mixed school of tuna dolphins look like.

Geographic coordinates, scientific equipment, maps, charts and labelling of animal species all contribute to make this a good science book for middle grades.  Not a lot of excitement and drama to capture a student’s attention, but full of good information book about the nature of research on the open ocean.



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