a naturalist discovers a universe of life above and below the Chesapeake
by Gilbert Klingel
The Bay doesn't just rattle off facts about the animal life that inhabits its waters and marshes, but describes in engaging detail actual incidents where he observed many of them close at hand. Some chapters describe moods of the landscape created by weather and the passing of daylight (and nighttime) hours: the movement of wind and sun over the waves, the sounds that echo across or through the water in darkness, and what he gleans from them. Other passages examine in detail the life cycles of such curious creatures as jellyfish, sponges, sea worms, fiddler crabs, great blue herons, bald eagles, starfish, osprey and different kinds of shellfish. They were all interesting, each in their own way. Most illuminating were the paragraphs where he told of diving under the surface and just standing for long passages of time on the floor of the Bay, just to see what animals would approach him or pass by. I've never read such descriptions of underwater life. One of the things that stood out vividly to me was how he explained that so many of the fish and other creatures have beautiful, iridescent colors underwater, yet when we see them caught and landed above in the dry air they turn dull or at best silvery gray, so that we never really know their true appearance and beauty at all. Unless you can sit under the waves and wait patiently for them to swim by, like he did. Klingel's lovely writing style reminded me quite a bit of reading Rachel Carson, or Sally Carrighar. I was pleasantly surprised- this book with its rather unassuming cover and outdated appearance did not have me expecting much and I ended up enjoying it immensely.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 278 pages, 1951