© 2020

Mysterious Ocean

Physical Processes and Geological Evolution

  • Discusses the evolution of the ocean and the seafloor

  • Bridges the gap between popular TV shows and textbooks on oceanography and marine geology

  • Written for an audience of general ocean science enthusiasts


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 1-12
  3. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 13-22
  4. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 23-40
  5. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 41-53
  6. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 55-80
  7. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 81-88
  8. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 89-110
  9. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 111-141
  10. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 143-168
  11. Peter Townsend Harris
    Pages 169-184
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 185-199

About this book


This book provides an introduction to ocean sciences that is engaging, evocative and accessible to non-experts interested in marine geoscience, while sparking readers' interest in important unsolved mysteries in marine science. The scope of the book is quite broad, but focuses on the physical ocean and its geological evolution, including the author's experiences working as an oceanographer over the last thirty years. Across ten chapters, the book traces the origins of the ocean from its formation 4 billion years ago, reviews the discoveries of the theory of plate tectonics, the ice ages and the great ocean conveyor, and discusses seafloor features (canyons, seamounts, trenches, abyssal plains, etc.), how they formed and their current environmental issues. The book concludes with a prognosis for the future ocean we might expect with global climate change and other human impacts.  


Ocean floor Seafloor mapping History of Oceanography Plate tectonics Continental drift The continental shelf Sea level rise Glaciation

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.GRID-ArendalArendalNorway

About the authors

Dr. Peter Townsend Harris has a PhD in geological oceanography and over 30 years of experience working on and writing about the oceans. He worked at the University of Sydney 1986-93 as a post-doc and lecturer, for Geoscience Australia 1994-2014 and is presently the CEO of GRID-Arendal in Norway. In 2010 he was appointed by the Australian Government to be a member of the United Nations Group of Experts for the first World Ocean Assessment (WOA). In 2014 he took his present position as CEO of GRID-Arendal, a science communication organisation created by the Norwegian government to support the UN Environment Programme. 

Bibliographic information


“‘Mysterious Ocean’ should appeal to a diverse set of interests, especially to anyone wanting to learn about the earth and the origin of the oceans. This would include young students studying physical sciences, adults with an appetite to learn more about how the oceans came about and their present state of health, and professionals of all disciplines that want to know how the earth evolved and what to expect in the future. I would certainly recommend the book to any of my students that are studying geological oceanography as the book is packed with most all of the salient knowledge needed to progress in learning what the oceans offer and what should be done to mitigate global warming, sea level rise, and potential extinction of ecologically important species. This is a must-read book. I encourage anyone the bit interested in our oceans to pick up and read this book. It serves as an excellent factual reference to the general State-of-Knowledge of our planet.” (H Gary Greene, Professor Emeritus of Geological Oceanography, San Jose State University) 

“Even for those of us who study the ocean, this vast, submerged part of most of our planet still holds too many mysteries. Mysterious Ocean is a delight regardless of your expertise. In clear, communicative language and with a wealth of intuitive maps and figures, Peter Harris weaves a narrative of the ocean that is near encyclopedic in scope but wonderfully accessible. And tremendous kudos to him, as this is the book that many of us have been wanting to write ourselves, or hoping that someone else could. The chapters of Mysterious Ocean are needed now more than ever with our planet in such crisis, and requiring so much more exploration and discovery. Dive into the mystery!” (Dawn J. Wright, Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri))