I picked up The Pacific Ocean a while ago at a library sale. It’s a history of the exploration of the Pacific Ocean written in 1940. It was the first of the “Oceans of the World” series, all written by different authors, and searching around shows that the other ‘forthcoming’ books were indeed released. This one was written by Felix Riesenberg, who, according to Wikipedia, wrote quite a number of books on nautical subjects (including one which served as a standard textbook); he also took part in two failed expeditions to the North Pole via airship, and had a Liberty Ship named after him.

It’s really meant as a young-adult level book, which makes sense given that it was published by a division of the McGraw-Hill company. It’s more in the lines of ‘true sea stories’ dealing with Magellan, Drake, Cook and the like, and not a thorough study of the subject.

Being seventy-three years old, it does come from another time. This is most obvious in the first chapter, which discusses the possible origins of the Pacific, and you are reminded of the fact that Continental Drift theory was known, but not yet accepted. “It is an interesting theory, over which geographers still dispute. Wegener lost his life in Greenland trying to substantiate it, and the observations taken there over a long period of time seem to indicate that Greenland is still moving west, as he predicted it must be.”

An even more telling part, is the second-to-last chapter, which deals with the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry, as this was written in 1940, when tensions were extremely high, but war had not actually started. The chapter is nicely sympathetic to the Japanese point of view, and recognizes past grievances. “The same difficulties that Perry met with in 1853 and 1854 exist today, and anyone who studies his attempts to cultivate the Japanese will find an astonishing Parallel between his negotiations and those that have made relations difficult in recent years between the United States and Japan. The Nipponese mentality and psychology have not changed, and neither have those of the United States.”

In the end, it’s a decent enough book, and might be worth picking up if you happen across it. But it isn’t worth seeking out.