“Big whorls have little whorls which feed on their velocity,Lewis Fry Richardson
And little whorls have lesser whorls and so on to viscosity“
These lines appear in Sarah Dry‘s tremendous book Waters of the World, a work of history which explores how scientists, researchers, and passionate amateurs gradually pieced together an understanding of our global climate system. The story spans continents and generations; some of its characters collaborate or compete, while others work alone, unaware of the wider context in which their endeavours might be received. Some don’t even live to see the difference that their research will make to the world. There are false starts and dead ends. Politics, from the sweep of colonialism to the pettiness of institutional squabbles, plays its part; and for all that this is a tale of systematic observation and theorisation, it’s no less deeply human for that. As one of Dry’s scientists, Joanne Simpson, put it:
“I think I am generally perceived as a pretty cool character. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To understand how a woman, or a man, for that matter, creates original work in any field, it is necessary to penetrate the emotional masks, and my masks have intentionally been hard to penetrate.”
Dry’s book, and particularly its chapter on “Fast Water”, exploring the currents of the ocean’s depths, makes me think of the ways that emotions can swirl around us and within us when we address difficult issues, alone or together.