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  • Published: 3 December 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143772675
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $70.00


Tales of Discovery and Encounter that Defined New Zealand

Formats & editions

Epic and engrossing, Ocean is a dynamic portrait of New Zealand and the sea.

Lying in the middle of a vast ocean, Aotearoa New Zealand was the last habitable land mass in the world to be settled by humans. Our history represents the powerful coming-together of two great seafaring traditions, Polynesian and European.

Ocean tells the stories of pioneers and trail-blazers, from the big names who left their mark on our history to everyday folk whose fates were dictated by time and tide. There are chancers and entrepreneurs, exploiters and environmentalists, war-makers and lifesavers. From myth and migration to exploitation and industry; from the word of God and the pursuit of money to summer carnivals and the oldest sporting trophy in the world, these stories of ships, sailors and seekers show how our relationship with the sea has been pivotal throughout our history, while the contemporary stories of those whose lives are deeply connected to the ocean bring our maritime past into the now.

Magnificently illustrated with diverse imagery, Ocean is a spirited collection of historical tales, a landmark book about how the ocean has shaped New Zealand and its people.

Published with the assistance of Manatu Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage

  • Pub date: 3 December 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143772675
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $70.00

About the Author

Sarah Ell

Born and raised on Auckland’s North Shore, author Sarah Ell has never lived more than a few kilometres from the ocean. Ell trained as a newspaper journalist before working in magazines and book publishing, including a stint as editor of Boating New Zealand, and has a Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand history from Massey University. A lifelong boatie, she has raced a variety of classes from Sunburst dinghies to sportsboats and keelboats. She still lives on the North Shore, with her husband, yacht designer Rob Shaw, their two children, and a growing collection of boats.

Praise for Ocean

“Ell leaves few pebbles unturned in this fulsomely illustrated voyage. From battleships to beach balls, trade and some of the best racing yachts ever built, Ocean is a highly readable exploration of the sea's enduring role in New Zealand life.”

Christopher Moore, New Zealand Listener

“[A] beautifully presented, richly illustrated volume.”

Australian Women's Weekly

“That Ocean could be considered a portable maritime museum is a reasonable one. ... [Its] packed with charts, news photographs, reproductions of historic and contemporary paintings and advertisements. ... Ell covers a huge amount of territory and the result is a coffee table collectible for seafarers – and by-the-sea dwellers.”

Kim Knight, Weekend Herald

“Telling the epic tales of Aotearoa's pioneers and trailblazers, [Sarah Ell] paints a portrait of the maritime past of our little island rolling in the deep of the world's largest ocean, then brings it back to the future with stirring stories of those for whom the sea is life today.”


“This book will interest the general reader and help most of us understand an aspect of New Zealand history that has been insufficiently celebrated.”

Peter Stupples, Otago Daily Times

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Read the story being discussed on Jesse Mulligan’s show on Radio New Zealand on 29 November 2018.

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