The Book of the Ocean by Ernest Ingersoll
Download The Book of the Ocean ebook. From the beginning of CHAPTER I: THE OCEAN AND ITS ORIGIN
LOOKING at the land, we divide the surface of the earth into eastern and western hemispheres; but looking at the water, we make an opposite classification. Encircle the globe in your library with a rubber band, so that it cuts across South America from about Porto Alegre to Lima on one side, and through southern Siam and the northernmost of the Philippine Islands on the other, and you make hemispheres, the northern of which (with London at its center) contains almost all the land of the globe, while the southern (with New Zealand as its central point) is almost entirely water, Australia, and the narrow southern half of South America being the only lands of consequence in its whole area. Observing the map in this way, noticing that, besides nearly a complete half-world of water south of your rubber equator, much of the northern hemisphere also is afloat, you are willing to believe the assertion that there is almost three times as much of the outside of the earth hidden under the waves as appears above them. The estimate in round numbers is one hundred and fifty million square (statute) miles of ocean surface, as compared with about fifty million square miles of land on the globe. To the people whose speculations in geography are the oldest that have come down to us, the earth seemed to be an island around which was perpetually flowing a river with no further shore visible. Beyond it, they thought, lay the abodes of the dead. This river, as the source of all other rivers and waters, was deified by the early Greeks and placed among their highest gods as Oceanus, whence our word “ocean.” Accompanying, or belonging to him, there grew up, in the fertile imagination of that poetic people, a large company of gods and goddesses, while men hid their absence of real knowledge by peopling the deep with quaint monsters.
“The word for ‘ocean’ (mare) in the Latin tongue means, by derivation, a desert, and the Greeks spoke of it as ‘the barren brine.'”
Over these old fables we need not linger. All the myths and guesswork that went before history represented the sea as older than the land, and told how creation began by lifting the earth above the universal waste of waters. The story in Genesis is only one of many such stories….
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A native of Monroe, Michigan, Ingersoll studied for a time at Oberlin College and afterward at Harvard University, where he was a pupil of Louis Agassiz. Agassiz died in 1873, and Ingersoll made his journalistic debut with an article for the New York Tribune in January 1874 on Agassiz’ work, for which he received $40 and the request for more scientific articles. In 1874, he went West as zoologist in the Hayden survey of 1874. In 1875, Ingersoll published a scientific paper describing what he had collected, mostly mollusks. On the expedition he made friends with photographer William Henry Jackson. They were the first scientists to investigate and describe the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Ingersoll sent dispatches to the Tribune, and the result was an offer to join its staff that year, which he accepted. While working as a reporter, he also wrote articles for an antecedent of Field and Stream and other magazines.
In 1877, he made a second trip West, again writing articles for periodicals on his experiences. 1879 found him visiting Colorado and writing on mining operations. That year he also began his work describing shellfisheries for a joint project of the United States Fish Commission and the United States Census Bureau. That project lasted until 1881. His reports treated modern fisheries, and also discussed shellfish utilization much earlier by Native Americans and early societies worldwide.
Ingersoll was an early advocate of protection of wildlife and natural habitats, and preferred field notes and photographs to taking specimens. These views he presented in popular lectures around 1888. From the 1890s to 1905, he updated guide books for Rand McNally. He took up residence in New York City in 1900. At that time he was writing a weekly column for a Montreal paper. Letters he received from readers indicated a need for material on bird identification, and he did a series of articles presenting a list of Canadian birds with descriptions. He did a similar list for Canadian snakes, which his daughter Helen helped write and illustrate. Helen also helped illustrate some of his books. He stopped writing the column in 1938, when he retired. Ernest Ingersoll was 94 years old when he died in a Brattleboro, Vermont, nursing home after a four-year illness.
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