I met Trevor Norton when researching a book, called Metamorphosis, which will be published some time next year. He was the Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool and head of the Marine lab (now extinct) on the Isle of Man. This led me to read some of his books based on his life and experiences -- and what a pleasant surprise they were. This is my amazon review of his book, Underwater To Get Out of the Rain: a love affair with the sea.
Under Water to Get out of the Rain
by Trevor Norton
This book heralds another delightful marine adventure by Norton, who has written two other beautifully crafted, and wonderfully humorous, books about the characters he has met, and some of the adventures he has had, in a lifetime as a marine biologist. It starts out with his memories of his childhood home, on St Mary’s Island, Northumberland, before whisking us away to a series of globally-based adventures: Devon, via Liverpool to the island of Anglesey, North Wales, to his first encounter with the Port Erin Marine Laboratory, where… ‘I was the least famous marine biologist ever to work on the Isle of Man’. From Port Erin we are whisked over the oceans to Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, where by chance, I happened to read the book. How changed the Canaries are today from the time when the party of “least famous marine biologists” were met on the quay by Don Mariano López, local dignitary and ex-mayor, who arranged for their luggage to be taken away by donkey cart while inviting the all-too-rare visitors to join him in an eight-course lunch, followed by coffee and cognac.
As one follows his ocean-bound circumambulations, back to Scotland, and the Scottish Islands, to Lough Ine, in the Southwest of Ireland – where he based his book, Reflections on a Summer Sea – to San Juan Island, Washington, then the Monterey California of Steinbeck’s day, every journey is imbued with characteristic charm and wit, and all the while enlivened by his sharp observation of the idiosyncrasies of human nature. His odyssey takes him a good deal further than I have room to describe, but permeating the exhilarating narrative of courage, luck, humor and adventure, is a chronicle of change, painful to witness in the working lifetime of one man. We observe, by degrees, the progressive overfishing and pollution of the oceans, and we share his dismay over the loss of a more innocent world. And, finally, we embrace Professor Norton’s caretaker role in the closure of the Marine Laboratory in Port Erin, a victim of the financial constraints that have afflicted many university centers in the UK in the first years of the New Millennium.