Staff Picks

Worlds in Shadow: Submerged Lands in Science, Memory and Myth

Emily Porter

October 01, 2021

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Patrick Nunn packs many different stories of the submerged—some familiar, others mostly unknown—into this engrossing book of the lands, memories, and people who once were lost to the depths of the oceans.

Worlds in Shadow: Submerged Lands in Science, Legend & Myth by Patrick Nunn, Bloomsbury sigma  

We’ve all heard stories of sunken cities—all their inhabitants lost to the sea. The oceans swallowed them up overnight, island paradises disappearing into the depths of the water as if pulled into the mouths of angry waves. Patrick Nunn, a Professor of Oceanic Geoscience, looks into the history and mythology of lands submerged throughout time, and the science behind the stories about them, passed down orally through the generations. There is usually truth embedded within these stories, created to understand the catastrophic events at the time. Atlantis is the most well-known, but in Worlds in Shadow we learn about other city islands, such as Dunwich, the islands of Yap and Chesapeake Bay, and even villages we currently reside in today that will soon be lost to the seas over time. We know, scientifically, that we now face the specter of rising seas, but Nunn cautions: 

We must be wary of superimposing our own beliefs and values on those of our distant ancestors who occupied quite different worlds and rationalized their existence in quite different ways from us.   

Some stories from long ago mention gods dragging islands into the depths, or giant animals or other deities blowing them away or wishing the island gone. These stories were the ways our ancestors could understand what had happened to them, what they experienced without having the knowledge of science to explain the traumatic event. Nunn packs many different stories of the submerged—some familiar, others mostly unknown—into this engrossing book of the lands, memories, and people who once were lost to the depths of the oceans. They are stories, combined with the scientific understanding of geography, geology, and climate change, that can help us today and in the future as so many of the places we call home are at risk of being submerged.  

About The Author

Emily Porter is our Communications & Publicity Manager who loves conversing with the wonderful authors we work with. A film photographer and long-time film industry nomad, she has had a constant love for books throughout her life. When not at work she enjoys curling up with her cats, adding to her bookshelves, practicing yoga, and photographing new landscapes. Travel. Cats. Coffee. Tea. Film. Books. RadioLab. National Geographic. Patti Smith. Dinosaurs.

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