Monday, April 6, 2009

THE DEEP Denizens of the Deep Seas

I cannot tell you how HAPPY I am to tell you about today’s book!

I’m sure you are aware – as am I - with humankind’s fascination with the oceans. In the past fifty or so years we’ve had any number of feature films built around the premise that there is wonder and fearful stuff “out there” in the oceans – and just about 100 years ago Jules Verne scared the heck out of his audience with his science fiction novel 10,000 Leagues under the Sea.

THE DEEP, however, is not a scary book. THE DEEP is a BEAUTIFUL book to behold – and read. Indeed, I would say that beauty and wonder are the twin reasons for reading – and looking through – THE DEEP.

The deep sea denizens photographed in THE DEEP are as bizarre and weird as any science fiction movie (or novel) you may have seen or read. Consider: 250-year-old red and white tube worms are seen waving slowly in the dark ocean depths; fish with lanterns above their heads swim into view and crab-like creatures that look for all the world like giant fleas move slowly through the deep gloom. Tiny Octopi with strange new abilities and giant 25+ foot squids that are more afraid of whales than whales are of them float by in close-up photos (the giant squid eye photo has to be seen – imagine what that experience would be like in real life!

There are photos and essays depicting the strange new (to human knowledge at least) worlds of the warmer water smoke-stacks and the cold methane flows, truly otherworldly places in the deep oceans where not photosynthesis but chemosynthesis is the engine for myriad life forms previously unknown and unimaginable even by most if in the science fiction world

And speaking of wonder, what about the possibilities that we may yet find remnants from the past …prehistoric monsters still living and even thriving far away from our human eyes? THE DEEP devotes a chapter to this possibility.

The essays themselves vary in readability. All are thoughtfully written by experts in their field – and, interestingly, are international in scope with authors from Japan, Europe, and North America all represented. But the enjoyment one derives from reading beautiful prose is not to be found in most of them.

Too, because this is a collection of essays there is repetition in the book – we learn again and again a bit about how the earth’s continents are moving about the planet, how volcanoes erupt more in certain areas of the world’s oceans than in others and about the importance of “organic rain” (dead animals and plants from the ocean above) sinks slowly down as nutrients to these denizens of the deep.

But, all that said, THE DEEP is an experience not to be missed – as a field guide to the deep oceans it is a wonder to peruse. Our author reminds us that the variety of life found in the deep oceans is thought to hugely outnumber the forms of life found on land and in the air – life forms we’re all most familiar with.

It is written more than once in THE DEEP that we’ve only begun to discover all the different forms of life the deep seas nurture – like the ongoing search for beetles and other insect life on dry land the oceans undoubtedly hold so many more wonders to behold. And as peek into the wonders and otherworldly beauties of “inner-space” as the oceans have been labeled THE DEEP is time well spent. Posted by Nick Schenkel, West Lafayette Public Library. Also available as a podcast WBAA website