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Singing Whales and Flying Squid: The Discovery of Marine Lifeby Richard Ellis
Synopses & Reviews
Two-thirds of this planet is covered by water inhabited by an incredible variety of living organisms, ranging in size from microbe to whale, and in abundance from scarce to uncountable. Whales and dolphins must surface to breathe, and some fishes occupy surface waters and can easily be seen from boats or shore, but most of the marine bio-profusion is hidden from human eyes, often under thousands of feet and millions of tons of water, which is usually cold, dark, and utterly inhospitable to humans. By definition, the study of marine life has been quantitatively and qualitatively different from the study of terrestrial life--it is, if you will, a different kettle of fish. What do we know today, how have we learned it, and what remains unknown and unknowable about inner space?
Because there have been so few human visitors to the uninviting world of the deep sea, scientists have had to rely on trawled specimens, photographs taken by robotic cameras, or occasionally, observations from deep-diving submersibles, to get even the vaguest idea of the nature of life in the abyss. So far, even our most elaborate efforts to penetrate the blackness have produced only minimal results. It is as if someone lowered a collecting basket from a balloon high above the tropical rain forest floor, and tried to analyze the nature of life in the jungle from a couple of random hauls. The inner space of the deep offers the last frontier on the planet. Even now, we know more about the back side of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean, but then the surface of the moon is not hidden under miles of impenetrable water. But we do know that living in this inaccessible medium are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth.
An understanding of the interrelationships between various creatures-including the one predator that has the power to distort, damage, or even eliminate populations of marine animals-is necessary if we are to survive in harmony with these populations. Although new technologies have given us tools to better census the whales, dolphins, and fishes, and to see heretofore unexpected life and geological forms deep under the sea, we are a long way from comprehending the nature and importance of marine biodiversity. Singing Whales, Flying Squid, and Swimming Cucumbers is an attempt to put the search for knowledge into perspective-to try to find out how we got here, and where, with the help of curiosity, science, and technology, we might be headed. With this as our Baedeker, we will voyage through time and space, tracing the history of the discovery of marine biology, from the moment that the first scientists--although for the most part, "science" had barely been invented--tried to figure out what sorts of creatures lived in the Mediterranean, the sea right off their shores.
So join Richard Ellis on an underwater adventure like no other you've ever taken or heard of: a voyage to discover the mysteries and reveal the wonders of marine life--more unusual and more astonishing than you--or anyone else--ever imagined.
Book News Annotation:
A researcher at the American Museum of Natural History, Ellis offers another of many books on marine life, this on the history of human knowledge about what lives in the ocean. He focuses on modern science, but occasionally compares knowledge in antiquity. He provides drawings, for which he is well known.
Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Book News Annotation:
A researcher at the American Museum of Natural History, Ellis offers another of many books on marine life, this on the history of human knowledge about what lives in the ocean. He focuses on modern science, but occasionally compares knowledge in antiquity. He provides drawings, for which he is well known. Annotation Â©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A richly illustrated journey that uncovers the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep ocean
The 200-foot-long HMS Challenger sailed around the world from 1873 to 1876--the first major expedition dedicated to the exploration of the ocean floor. It traversed 68,890 nautical miles, visiting the North and South Atlantic, the North and South Pacific, the Arctic and the Antarctic. Its hauls revealed an astonishing plenitude of living things, including sea anemones, urchins, jellyfish, sea slugs, squid, isopods, amphipods, and hunks of coral, proving that life exists at the ocean's greatest depths. In 1968, the Glomar Challenger was launched. Until her retirement in 1983, she employed scientists from almost every oceanographic and geological discipline, making ninety-three voyages in every major sea.
In their honor, our fantasy vessel will be named Challenger II. While the first Challenger sent trawls and dredges to the sea floor to collect samples, our vessel will send herself. Challenger II is a state-of-the-art exploration submarine, equipped with the latest technological advances and capable of diving to the oceans' greatest depths. Aboard it, we will hear the sounds of the not-so-silent sea, and see the vast miscellany of marine wildlife that no one has ever seen before. We will have powerful lights, but no collecting equipment--for ours is a voyage of pure observation. The original Challenger had six naturalists aboard; we will, in a manner of speaking, have hundreds. Participants in the Census of Marine Life have written thousands of studies, and we will have all that material to draw on. Aboard Challenger II, you will observe the oceans' multitude of life forms, up close and personal. Because it is a fantasy vessel, unencumbered by the troublesome realities of ship design or hydrodynamics, Challenger II has ample deck space, allowing for comfortable viewing at the surface, but we also have the ability to dive to unfathomable depths to seek out the weird and wonderful creatures of the abyss. Join us on this voyage Around the World Underwater.
About the Author
Richard Ellis, one of America's most celebrated marine artists and writers, is the author of ten books, including Monsters of the Sea, The Search for the Giant Squid, Men and Whales, Great White Shark, Deep Atlantic, and Imagining Atlantis. He lives in New York City.
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