HRI, TAMU Press Issue 25th Anniversary Edition of Sea Change by HRI Co-Founder Sylvia Earle
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas —The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is proud to announce the 25th anniversary reprinting of the seminal marine science and conservation nonfiction book, Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans by HRI co-founder, marine scientist and explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Both an exciting true story of undersea research and exploration, and an urgent plea to conserve our rapidly deteriorating ocean systems, it’s a book that has changed countless minds on the importance and urgency of conserving the world’s oceans and inspired the founding of the Harte Research Institute.
The book, which comes with new color photographs and an updated preface by Earle, is a part of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Book Series sponsored by HRI and published by Texas A&M University Press. It can be purchased here.
“Sea Change represents, for me, a personal look at the state of the ocean up until mid-90s,” Earle said. “During that time — and continuing to today — I have been a witness to a time of extraordinary new information about our world’s oceans, things we did not and could not know when I was a child, when no one had been to the deepest parts of our ocean to verify that there was life even at those depths.”
Sea Change is an adventure narrative detailing Earle’s relentless passion for underwater exploration beginning in 1952 when, at the age of just 16, she borrowed a friend’s copper diving helmet, compressor and pump and slipped into the waters of a Florida river. She has since descended to more than 3,000 feet in a submersible and led or participated in expeditions totaling 7,000 hours underwater and counting at a time when few women were taken seriously in marine science. But in her time underwater, Earle also became a witness to the destruction humans have knowingly and unknowingly brought down on our oceans.
“The parallel to this extraordinary time of discovery was an extraordinary time of loss. We have lost so much of the natural world — not just the wild lands but the wild oceans have all succumbed to the impacts of us,” Earle said. “My time as a witness and as a scientist in this extraordinary period was the inspiration behind Sea Change.”
Through Earle’s journey of unimaginable beauty and incredible destruction, she seeks to share the exhilaration of discovery while conveying a sense of urgency about the need to continue to explore, study, and protect our struggling oceans, opening our eyes to the connections between our own lives and life underwater.
The book has already inspired great change once — more than two decades ago, at a dinner in Houston, Earle sat next to future Harte Research Support Foundation Trustee Will Harte. She gave him a copy of Sea Change, never expecting he would read it. He did, and passed it on to his father, Ed Harte, a retired newspaper publisher famous for his philanthropy and commitment to environmental issues. The book came to him at a fortuitous time — Ed Harte had begun thinking about what to do with his fortune, and as a longtime resident of Corpus Christi and a lover of birds, he had a great interest in coastal conservation already. It has often been said that reading Sea Change was the spark that eventually inspired him to fund the $46 million endowment that would create the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
A committee of great scientific minds was formed to plan the institute. Earle, who joined that brain trust, said that it was inspiring to help create a new kind of marine research institute from the ground up that focused on problem solving with science-driven solutions. HRI was eventually designed around a unique model that included traditional marine science but also socioeconomics, policy, and law to ensure a multidisciplinary approach was used to work on these real-world conservation problems. September 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the institute’s founding, and Earle said she had that anniversary on her mind as she reissued Sea Change, including a special section about the institute.
“We’re really at a critical moment for the health of our oceans, and it’s very satisfying to see that the creation of the Harte Research Institute has come at just the right time,” Earle said.
Seeing the institute grow from an idea to place that’s actively solving problems in the Gulf of Mexico and training the next generation of marine researchers gives her hope for the future, Earle added.
“Ed Harte was inspired to give back not only to Corpus Christi and the state of Texas, but to create something that would make a difference in the world. And I’m so proud that reading my book catalyzed his desire to achieve that,” Earle said. “HRI is a special place that continues to grow and change as a powerful force for good in the Gulf of Mexico, and I think Ed’s vision is only becoming more of a reality as students have been educated, projects have been undertaken, and new minds come in.”