Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

by Jonathan White

This book was a great introduction for anyone who is interested in the natural world, and doesn't come in with a lot of knowledge beforehand. It was pretty light reading; equal parts science, travel writing, history, and spirituality. I would describe it as a great high-level view of how our understanding of tides has evolved through the years, and how intertwined tides are with humans. It conveys both the vast amount of knowledge we have acquired about the inner workings of tides and their different patterns, while still making it clear that there is a significant amount about tides that continues to be shrouded in mystery.

Tides has a couple of strengths. First, it does a great job of giving an important sense of connection between humans and tides. From ancient peoples getting their food and safety from rising and sinking tides, to Galileo using tides as a case study when presenting the theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun, to spritual and religious connections to tides that people all around the globe experience, the book paints a magnificent picture of how intertwined human beings have been with the tides for our entire existence.

Some of the first human writings were tidal charts, mapping the reliable but chaotic patterns tides can rise and fall at. Sailors throughout Europe had to have intricate knowledge of when tides went in and out in different parts of the coastlines, and they used those timings to their advantages during war and trade. The Qianting tidal bore has become an essential part of the regions culture both as a tourist attraction and part of the local mythological lore. Tides have been always been a massively important part of human culture and survival, and this connection definitely felt present in this book.

Second, this book does a great job of showing how much human ingenuity has gone into the understanding and interpretation of tidal patterns, and just how much further there is to go. Tides are a shockingly mysterious and complex subject. Humans have been studying them for a long time, and getting to see the different theories and evolution of those theories was great. I learned a lot about how the Moon and Earth revolve around each other, and how different celestial bodies have an effect upon tidal patterns.

Tidal theory can basically be broken into two fields: exterior (celestial bodies) and interior (vibrating basins in the ocean). The book doesnt go terribly deep into how this all functions, but I still think it serves as a great introduction to the theories. One of the parts that blew my mind was when the book discusses how different basins in the ocean vibrate at different frequencies. When a wave comes across a basin basin with a matching frequency, this creates an incredibly large rise in the tide. This is how a bay in Hawaii can get flooded by a Tsunami that happens in Thailand; the residual wave comes in and is at the right frequency, suddenly flooding the bay. The rest of the island is okay since it lies on another basin.

Ultimately, I would recommend this book to just about anyone who has even a vague interest in how the world works. I will admit that I was not interested when first presented this book. I heard great things though, and decided to give it a shot. I'm happy I did! I learned a lot about several different subjects and have a much greater appreciation for the complexities and power of tidal patterns around the world.