Pacific by Simon Winchester
eBook review copy, 512 pages
Pacific by Simon Winchester is a very highly recommended look
at ten pivotal events in history since 1950 that reflect a greater
truth about the Pacific Ocean then and in the future.
The Pacific is a vast ocean. It covers sixty-four million square
miles - almost one-third of the planet's surface. Forty-five percent
of the planet's total surface waters are found in the Pacific Ocean.
It is what is left of the once all-encompassing Panthalassic Ocean.
"It is the most biologically diverse, the most seismically active;
it sports the planet's greatest mountains and deepest trenches; its
chemistry influences the world; and the planetary weather systems
are born within its boundaries." There are so many different
directions he could take and stories that could be told about the
Pacific that Winchester choose to focus on ten events in
chronological order which have taken place since 1950 and show
trends or developments that will likely continue to evolve in the future.
Contents ( highlighted, dated event for the chapter is followed by
my brief comment) include:
List of Maps and Illustrations
Authors Note on Carbon
It was agreed upon by scientists for the purpose of carbon dating
that "the present" begins at the start of January 1950, which is why
that date was chosen by Winchester as the date to start his look at
events over the past sixty-five years in the Pacific.
Chapter 1: The Great Thermonuclear Sea - January 19, 1950: Truman
backs Making the Hydrogen Bomb.
The Pacific is an atomic ocean. More dangerous than that, it is the
ocean where most of the world's thermonuclear weapons have been
Chapter 2: Mr. Ibuka's Radio Revolution - August 7, 1955: First
Japanese Transistor Radio is Made
The invention of the transistor radio and the beginning of the Sony
Chapter 3: The Ecstasies of Wave Riding - August 21, 1959: Hawaii
becomes the fiftieth U.S. state
The movie Gidget, was released on April 10th, 1959 and
surfing, which started in the Polynesian Pacific, became a cultural
Chapter 4: A Dire and Dangerous Irritation - January 23, 1968: the
USS Pueblo is captured by North Korea
The split of Korea at the 38th parallel and the creation of North
Korea has had far reaching consequences that are still evident
Chapter 5: Farewell, All my Friends and Foes - January 10. 1972: the
RMS Queen Elizabeth sinks at Hong Kong.
Recent years have marked the withdrawal of colonial control of the
Chapter 6: Echoes of Distant Thunder - December 25, 1974: Australian
Supercyclone Tracy touches down
This devastating storm brought attention to the fact that the
Pacific Ocean is the generator of much of the world's weather.
Ultra-low-pressure storms occur five times more often in the
Pacific.The Pacific is where the El Nino and La Nina events start.
Chapter 7: How Goes the Lucky Country? - November 11, 1975:
Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam is dismissed
A serving Australian prime minister was suddenly dismissed by a
representative of the British queen and marked a turning point for
Chapter 8: The Fires in the Deep - February 17, 1977: the
submersible Alvin spots an abyssal heat source
The Pacific is a seismically active region. The discovery of the
first smokers, deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, and the curious life
forms around them was a startling revelation. This is the ocean with
The Ring of Fire, where plate tectonics results in over four hundred
volcanoes and the majority of the earth's earthquakes.
Chapter 9: A Fragile and Uncertain Sea - December 12, 1981: Coral
bleaching is seen on Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder of earth and home to such
diverse marine life that the bleaching of coral indicates a problem
of far reaching significance that is the planet's problem, not just
Chapter 10: Of Masters and Commanders - June 15, 1991: Mount
Pinatubo erupts, Philippines
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo smothered two U.S. bases nearby, one
of them a navy headquarters, and resulted in their abandonment. The
Chinese navy, always a presence in the area, moved in and is now
aggressively trying to expand their control of the Pacific.
Epilogue: The Call of the Running Tide - June 2, 1976: the Hawaiian
canoe Hokule'a complete her maiden voyage
May 17, 2014: the the Hawaiian canoe Hokule'a starts her global
"She and her crew of thirty were sailing for forty-seven thousand
miles across all the world's oceans without the use of any
navigational instruments whatsoever. They were taking no compass. No
sextant. No radar. No radio. And certainly no GPS. They would sail
alone, unaided, as their predecessors sailed across this very ocean,
many centuries before." They are still on this voyage.
Acknowledgments; Note on Sources; Bibliography; Index
Winchester is one of my favorite authors. He is a great researcher
and writer whose nonfiction reads like a fictional thriller, keeping
your attention glued to the pages. Even if you know the history and
what is going to happen or remember many of the events, he makes it
infinitely entertaining. Occasionally, his point of view may annoy
some readers, especially in his sweeping "the American's..."
comments which might be better taken if he were more specific in
pointing blame and if this same point of view was universally
applied to the British, the Chinese, the Japanese, and The North
Koreans. There are enough skirmishes and blame to be passed around
regarding colonialism and current power struggles over the Pacific.
It is not all Western civilization exploiting or infiltrating
Eastern civilization. That ship is sailing both/all directions.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for