In this special issue on the vast topic of oceans, we've stayed close to home,
along the coasts of Alaska, California, Maine, and Florida. Even so, as we dive
down to the unearthly realms of lobster, coral, and squid, we discover places so
unfamiliar, intense, and full of vital information that we'd have to leave the
planet entirely to find ourselves more amazed.
Nancy Lord opens with a global perspective in "Only One Ocean." A commercial
fisherwoman, Lord has penned Sierra pieces on salmon and Native American
languages, plus many other articles and books, including Fishcamp: Life on an
Alaskan Shore (Island Press, 1997), which was nominated for a John Burroughs
Award for nature writing. In this issue, a visit to the dying Mediterranean
sharpens her appreciation for her own Alaskan waters.
Reporter Susan Pollack started her journalism career in 1974, working for a
weekly paper in Amagansett, a fishing town on Long Island. "The place touched
me," she says. "So did the lives of the fishermen." For the East Hampton Star and
later for National Fisherman, she rode on factory trawlers and lobster boats,
providing firsthand accounts of those who make a living from the sea. In 1994 she
wrote about the collapse of the Northeast's cod fishery for Sierra. For "The
Lobster Trap" in this issue she tells a more hopeful tale in which there is still
time for humans to do the right thing.
Another seaworthy journalist, Bill Belleville, donned scuba gear to research "A
Place of Unrest," about coral reefs in the Florida Keys. Belleville earned his
diving certification to cover a story for Newsweek 20 years ago and has since
explored the sea for Audubon, Sports Afield, and Reader's Digest. "Things can
look dandy from the surface-palm trees swaying in the breeze, birds chirping,"
Belleville says. "But if you take a good look under water, the ecological outlook
is not always so cheery."
Our guide to ocean adventure is Glenn Vanstrum, a San Diego physician who has
roamed the world in search of grist for his photography and writing (which have
appeared in National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, and Ocean Realm). His
favorite subject is scuba diving-because, as he explains in "Just Beneath the
Surface," it's so far removed from everyday life.
The oceans are examined here through different lenses: Pollack sees them as a
food factory; Belleville, as a rich biological soup; and Vanstrum, as a challenge
for explorers. In the end, though, each author echoes Lord's overarching message:
even the vast oceans have their limits.