Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Mariner Travels The World To Study Ocean Tides

Author Jonathan White in an undated photo.
Chris White
Author Jonathan White in an undated photo.
Mariner Travels The World To Study Tides
Mariner Travels The World To Study Tides GUEST: Jonathan White, author, "Tides"

Living along the coast of the great Pacific Ocean as we do in San Diego we have become very familiar with the rhythm of the tides. May be too familiar because it is easy to forget that the constant roiling of the sea remains as mystical as it is predictable. Conservation is Jonathan White became fascinated with types tested -- decades ago and traveled around the world to learn more about them and the result is his new book tides the science and spirit of the ocean. Joining the is author Jonathan White. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. You have been a mariner for years what did you know about tides I knew how to read the tides are -- chart for certain but not much more about that. I knew the man had something to do with it but not exactly what. On your journey as part of your journey you travel to France. Can you describe it for us. There is a 45 foot tither that is one of the largest in the world that comes across the flats they say as quickly as galloping horses and I believe it is true having been there a couple of times in my research there are monks and sisters that come and practice there and really historically has been a Benedictine monastery since the seventh century. And how did the monks of a previous age view the tides. It's an interesting question and is one of the ones that I sought out to answer. I did finally after two years of petitioning the monks the the granted a silent lunch and a half hour interview so it is kind of the central piece of the chapter and one of the things that I thought was especially interesting was that they said that they thought that the tides was another way of seeing God. You also went to an Arctic ice cave. What did you find there? That is for a chapter on the largest tides in the world where I went to the Arctic and I have the opportunity to go down underneath the ice with an Inuit elder during low tide to hunt for blue muscles. It was an extraordinary experience. It was like going down into a warm underworld. Mike the surface or the body of the sea. In your book you show how the tides are plotting and you know title activity is linked to the faces of the men but either still things that we don't understand? One of the things we do not fully understand is the relationship between tides and seismic activity. It makes common sense that with all the sloshing and pulling and pushing that there would be some relationship to volcanic seismic activity on earth. They have many creatures that live in the titles and. How did you cope with the rising sea levels? There are many cities along the coast that I threatened -- and island groups. Each one of them is dealing with her in a different way. This was an indigenous group having the Indians and if the sea level rises as its conservatively estimated to do they will lose all the island homes. We have been dealing with tide and sea level rise. All of these areas are doing different things to make different adaptations. Every situation is different. They have windmills to traumatize into electricity. It is going well I started out as a naysayer because I have been involved in marine conservation for most of my adult life and I saw it as an environmental threat. I completely came around in my research. I think now that it is not the silver bullet. My final question to you is the writing of this book really it was a personal journey for you. How do you think it changed you? Let's see. In many many ways. So I kept discovering that there was so much more to the subject. So much that is complex and poetic about it that it just kept drawing me in. It has been an extremely rewarding journey. My guest Jonathan White will be speaking about his book tides the science and spirit of the ocean at the La Jolla library. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Living along the Pacific Ocean, many San Diegans are familiar with the rhythm of the tides.

Mariner Jonathan White thought he too knew everything he needed to know about the constant roiling of the sea. But after almost losing his boat in a large Alaskan tide, he set off on a decades-long, worldwide journey to learn more about the ocean's movements.

"When I started my research, I thought I would discover a place, or an event, where one could say, 'This is where the tide begins,'" White said. "But there’s no such thing. The tide is constantly moving. Where it’s receding from one coast, it’s rising on another. All this is orchestrated by the heavens – and in particular by the changing orbital relationships of the earth, sun, and moon. So, in a sense, this is a great dance, performed on a very large dance floor."


White's research led to a new book, "Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean." He will be speaking at the La Jolla Riford Library Saturday at 2p.m.

White joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss Mont St. Michel in France, a monastery which becomes an island during high tides, and other stories from his travels.