Terry Breverton,
Breverton's Nautical Curiosities: A Book of the Sea
(Lyons, 2010)

There are a lot of books on the market that focus on the trivia of sailors, ships and the sea. Breverton's Nautical Curiosities is the best I've seen.

Terry Breverton has a knack for organizing information and presenting it in interesting, easily digestible chunks. He begins in familiar waters: chapter headings include "An A-Z of Sea Slang," "Sea Conditions and Weather," "Life at Sea," "Death at Sea," "Heroes, Heroines, Sea People and Navigation," and "Villains of the Sea." Read through these sections and you'll learn a lot about types of ships, parts of a ship, a ship's food and medical care, naval weapons, famous captains and, of course, pirates. In "Islands, Ports, Harbours and Capes," Breverton explores the geography of seafaring.

In the final chapters, he casts his eyes a little deeper. "Animals of the Seas" and "The Ocean Environment" delve into biology and zoology, laying out for readers the many fascinating creatures that call the oceans home, as well as the environmental threats against them. Breverton makes a serious case for conservation, detailing the mass extinctions that are occurring even now and projecting what's likely to occur if we continue on our present course.

This is a darling of a book, easy to read at length or keep handy to browse piecemeal. I wish there were pictures -- the book is illustrated only by a number of blue-inked sketches, which only sometimes relate directly to the topic at hand -- but that's the only disappointment.

book review by
Tom Knapp

15 November 2014

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