Jonathan’s love for the sea is lifelong. He grew up on the beaches of southern California. He’s built and sailed many boats, logged more than a hundred thousand miles on the Pacific and Atlantic, and surfed all over the world. He has served on numerous conservation boards and committees, including the San Juan Preservation Trust, the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee, and the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative.
As founder and former director of the Resource Institute, a nonprofit educational organization based in Seattle, Washington, he spent eleven years conducting seminars aboard the schooner Crusader in the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to Southeast Alaska. Resource Institute sponsored weeklong seminars aboard the sixty-five-foot schooner, with subjects ranging from navigation, anthropology, and whale research to poetry writing, music, and photography. Psychologist James Hillman taught a seminar on the role of animals in dreams; scientist Lynn Margulis discussed the Gaia Hypothesis; poet Gary Snyder pondered the role of killer whales and bears in Haida mythology. Robert Bly, Gretel Ehrlich, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Nelson, Paul Winter, Art Wolfe, and William Stafford were among the many others who made presentations aboard Crusader. Many of those conversations were captured in Jonathan’s first book, Talking on the Water.
While on one of these seminars, Crusader ran aground on a spring tide in SE Alaska and ever since then Jonathan has been fascinated by the tides. The moon had something to do with it, but what exactly? A book or two turned into a twenty-year fascination.
Jonathan’s research took him to five continents where he saw the largest, fastest, scariest and most amazing tides in the world. With Lukasi Nappaaluk, an Inuit elder, he slithered through a hole in the arctic ice and gathered mussels in the dark cavities left behind by a dropping tide. In China, he witnessed the world’s largest tidal bore, a 25-foot wave that charges upriver at twenty miles an hour. At Mont St. Michel in France, he learned how the monks were inspired by the tide. And at the Royal Society of London, he learned that Plato and Aristotle, Leonardo de Vinci, Newton, Descartes, and many other noted thinkers had been captivated – and befuddled — by the tide’s mystery. The book that led to Galileo’s arrest for heresy by the Catholic Church, in fact, was a treatise originally called “The Flux and Reflux of the Tides.” It’s been that important to mankind for centuries. But the story has never been properly told.
“I grew up surfing and sailing. I always had a tide chart in my back pocket. I knew there were surf breaks that worked only at a particular tide, and reefs I couldn’t sail across except at the highest tides. I knew the moon had something to do with the tide, but that was it. After almost losing my boat during a large tide up in Alaska, I wanted to learn more about this great mystery. I thought I’d get what I wanted by reading a book, but one book turned into two, and two turned into ten. The subject of tides was far more complex and fascinating and poetic than I imagined. I eventually read over 300 books and as many papers. [this is where you should drop in the image called “300books.jpg”] I’m more in love with this topic now than when I started, as the more I learn the more rich I find this subject to be, as it is not just about the sea – it is about all of human history and the growth of science and life itself. I am really excited about the speaking schedule [link to speaking schedule] we are planning, which will take me across the North America.