Contents Index

the ground sea

As time has disappeared, so has the conventional security of space. Under the terrifying, antihuman solidity of this barren field of ice, even where mountains appear to arise from it, there is open and fluid water capable of erupting with terrifying sublimity. Victor is, in fact, at sea; he has become the ancient mariner that the continual evocation of Coleridge's text across the length of the novel has presaged.

According to the OED:


ground-sea. A heavy sea in which large waves rise and dash upon the coast without apparent cause.

* A. 1642 Sir W. Monson Naval Tracts ii. (1704) 247/2 He met with so great a Storm and Ground Seas.

* 1756 Prince in Phil. Trans. XLIX. 642 A rumbling noise was heard, like that which usually precedes what the sailors call a ground-sea.

* 1835 R. S. Hawker Prose Wks. (1893) 28 On, through the ground-sea, shove!

* 1865 Englishm. Mag. Oct. 296 A heavy ground-sea.


a. ground-swell. A deep swell or heavy rolling of the sea, the result of a distant storm or seismic disturbance.

* 1818 Scott Hrt. Midl. iii, The agitation of the waters, called by sailors the ground-swell.

* 1840 R. H. Dana Bef. Mast i. 2 The vessel..rolled with the heavy ground swell.

* 1877 Black Green Past. xxviii. (1878) 221 Crashing its way through the rolling waves of a heavy ground-swell.

b. fig. Usually with reference to mental or political agitation.

* 1817 Coleridge Zapolya i. Wks. IV. 219 It is the ground-swell of a teeming instinct.

* 1856 R. A. Vaughan Mystics (1860) I. 91 The religious world was rocking still with the groundswell that followed those stormy synods.

* 1870 Lowell Among my Bks. Ser. i. (1873) 219 The deep-raking, ground-swell of passion, as we see it in the sarcasm of Lear.