Under the Sea Wind

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Under the Sea Wind
Under the Sea Wind (Cover).jpg
First edition
Author Rachel L. Carson
Illustrator Howard Frech (first)
Robert W. Hines (1991)
Country United States
Language English
Series Sea trilogy
Subject Ocean and shore life
Genre Nature writing
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Oxford 1952; Penguin Nature Classics 1996
Publication date
Media type Print
Followed by The Sea Around Us

Under the Sea Wind: A Naturalist's Picture of Ocean Life (1941) is the first book written by the American marine biologist Rachel Carson. It was published by Simon & Schuster in 1941, when it received very good reviews but sold poorly. After the great success of a sequel The Sea Around Us (Oxford, 1951), it was reissued by Oxford University Press; that edition was an alternate Book-of-the-Month Club selection and became another bestseller. It is recognised today as one of the "definitive works of American nature writing,"[1] and is in print as one of the Penguin Nature Classics.


Under the Sea Wind describes the behaviour of fish and seabirds accurately, but in story form, often using the scientific names of species as character names. Carson's stated goal in doing so was "to make the sea and its life as vivid a reality for those who may read the book as it has become for me during the past decade."[2] The first of her characters is introduced this way:

With the dusk a strange bird came to the island from its nesting grounds on the outer banks. Its wings were pure black, and from tip to tip their spread was more than the length of a man's arm. It flew steadily and without haste across the sound, its progress as measured and as meaningful as that of the shadows which little by little were dulling the bright water path. The bird was called Rynchops, the black skimmer.[3]

The middle section of the book follows the life-story of Scomber, the mackerel, while the last part describes pond creatures such as eels and ducks. A glossary at the end of the book provides additional detail.[4]


The style of Carson's writing makes the book suitable for children as well as adults, and the appeal is enhanced with illustrations, originally by Howard Frech, and replaced in 1991 with illustrations by Robert W. Hines. Carson acknowledged the influence of nature-novelist Henry Williamson on her writing style,[5] but uses her scientific expertise to ground Under the Sea Wind in scientifically accurate detail on each animal's appearance, diet and behaviour.[6]


  1. ^ Bryson, Michael A. Visions of the Land: Science, Literature, and the American Environment from the Era of Exploration to the Age of Ecology. University of Virginia Press, 2002, p. 144. ISBN 0-8139-2107-4.
  2. ^ Quaratiello, Arlene. Rachel Carson: A Biography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004, pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-313-32388-7.
  3. ^ Carson, Rachel. Under the Sea-Wind. Penguin Nature Classics edition (1996), pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-14-025380-7.
  4. ^ Carson, pp. 273–304.
  5. ^ Quaratiello, p. 29.
  6. ^ Stewart, Frank. A Natural History of Nature Writing. Island Press, 1995, p. 170. ISBN 1-55963-279-8.