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Ocean Bestiary

A delightful A-to-Z menagerie of the sea—whimsically illustrated, authoritative, and thought-provoking.

For millennia, we have taken to the waves. And yet, for humans, the ocean remains our planet's most inaccessible region, the place about which we know the least. From A to Z, abalone to zooplankton, and through both text and original illustrations, Ocean Bestiary is a celebration of our ongoing quest to know the sea and its creatures.

Focusing on individual species or groups of animals, Richard J. King embarks upon a global tour of ocean wildlife, including beluga whales, flying fish, green turtles, mako sharks, noddies, right whales, sea cows (as well as sea lions, sea otters, and sea pickles), skipjack tuna, swordfish, tropicbirds, walrus, and yellow-bellied sea snakes. But more than this, King connects the natural history of ocean animals to the experiences of people out at sea and along the world's coastlines. From firsthand accounts passed down by the earliest Polynesian navigators to observations from Wampanoag clamshell artists, African-American whalemen, Korean female divers (or haenyeo), and today's pilots of deep-sea submersibles—and even to imaginary sea expeditions launched through poems, novels, and paintings—Ocean Bestiary weaves together a diverse array of human voices underrepresented in environmental history to tell the larger story of our relationship with the sea. Sometimes funny, sometimes alarming, but always compelling, King's vignettes reveal both how our perceptions of the sea have changed for the better and how far we still have to go on our voyage.

 

Advance Praise for Ocean Bestiary

 

"At a time when the wonders of marine life need as many compassionate advocates as possible, Ocean Bestiary engages readers in the ocean's intricacies and significance, by telling curious, at times humorous stories of its animals as seen through the eyes of people who have spent time at sea—observing, sailing, fishing, and studying often in remote, unseen parts of the planet. The diversity of storytellers and human characters—with a particular focus on people from non-Western, non-white ethnic backgrounds—helps us to see that the ocean is for everyone. Fresh, accessible, and with entertaining illustrations, these are stories worth telling and well told." -- Helen Scales, author of The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It

 

"Readers can certainly use this book as a reference; however, the author most likely intended it to be read from cover to cover. In doing so, readers will come away with a panoramic overview of ocean life and a solid knowledge of maritime history. King's quality of research is evident; his entries contain firsthand accounts from primary sources dating back to early Polynesian explorers, through contemporary accounts by navigators of seagoing vessels. VERDICT: King's writing style is delightful and witty; he is a natural storyteller. Readers will also love his illustrations, which have the power to put smiles on faces. Highly recommended for all academic libraries and publics too." —Steve Dixon, Library Journal

 

 

Reviews

 

"[Ocean Bestiary] vignettes cover not only biology but also literature, history, and firsthand accounts of the animal in question from fishers, divers, whalers, scientists, artists, and others, using a variety of sources, including rare manuscripts, oral histories, and scientific reports. Ocean Bestiary is an entertaining collection of info—accessible, engaging, and perfect for ocean enthusiasts." --Hakai magazine

 

 

"The life [King] samples is global in range and scope. The 41 chapters—I had to count several times to make sure I was correct, as some letters get more than one chapter—are generally short and punchy, pungent, or both, like parables. King rarely constrains himself to mere organismal description, but rather leaps off to touch on a creature's past and present intersections with humans. The result is a lively potpourri that lends itself to intermittent sampling. King's own drawings and paintings
accompany the text." --Marine Ornithology 

 

"King's quality of research is evident; his entries contain firsthand accounts from primary sources dating back to early Polynesian explorers, through contemporary accounts by navigators of seagoing vessels. His writing style is delightful and witty; he is a natural storyteller. Readers will also love his illustrations, which have the power to put smiles on faces. Highly recommended." ― Library Journal

 

"King profiles marine animals and tells of their notable encounters with humans, spanning Polynesian voyagers' first contact with New Zealand sea lions around 1200 CE through to a Japanese biologist's successful efforts to photograph a living giant squid in 2004. Some of the more amusing entries describe how a 1920s sea turtle hunter's practice of carving his initials into turtle shells inspired a marine biologist to conduct tagging studies on the animals' migration, as well as how whale sharks eat by ingesting krill-filled ocean water that gets filtered through 'twenty spongy, porous pads in the shark's throat.' . . . Charming illustrations." ― Publishers Weekly

 

"In medieval times, bestiaries offered beautifully illustrated texts of real or imagined creatures, accompanied by their natural history and moral lessons. In this work, the author takes a different approach. . . . These first-hand accounts come from books, rare manuscripts, oral histories, interviews, podcasts, newspapers, archaeological reports, and more . . . The book will capture readers' attention." ― Booklist