I’m back on the farm just outside of Byron Bay and have been enjoying some quiet time after a whirlwind of travel before and during the holidays. We’ve acquired a heap of books over the past few weeks and are now sitting down to feast away on them.
Right now both Dave and I are reading The Wave by Susan Casey. It’s an entertaining and easy to read blend of science writing and the action/drama of some of surfing’s most extreme characters. Some of the statistics in the book are pretty startling, especially Casey’s claim that, on average, about 24 large shipping vessels sink each year, and mostly without any explanation as to why. Most are chalked up to “bad weather.” Casey poses the comparative question, “Can you imagine if just one 747 went missing without explanation?”
The Wave is a particularly interesting read for surfers, as it gives us a little glimpse into our culture from an outsiders perspective, but without the overly cheesy language that usually accompanies describing surfing. Through Casey’s writing we get to follow some of the pioneers of tow surfing into the conditions in which they thrive and learn about the science of the massive surf that they engage with.
Ultimately, The Wave bluntly lays down the fact that we still know very little about the oceans and the physics of huge ocean waves, including their frequency and origins. Casey paints the turbidity of our oceanic understandings well in the following passage:
“From a science and technology standpoint, we humans like to think we’re quite smart. Over in Switzerland, for instance, physicists are chasing the Higgs boson, a subatomic speck so esoteric that it’s referred to as the “God particle.” If we’re closing in on this, how is it possible that only fifteen years ago a force that regularly demolishes 850-foot-long ships was deemed not to exist?”
Here’s a link to the NPR review:
And The New York Times review: