The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Richard Smith

The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral ReefsThe World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Richard Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It’s short, when you consider that half of it is photographs, but what photographs!! Stunning, jaw-dropping “wow” for some of the tiniest creatures in that world beneath. Dr. Smith is an incredible photographer. And he’s had access to some amazing reefs in his work, which he shares in here. He says,

I am drawn to animals that are easily overlooked or ignored, and I use underwater photography to share their beauty – hopefully imparting a greater sense of appreciation to people who haven’t been able to see these animals firsthand.

And that sharing is wonderful.

I do not dive with tanks (something about not wanting to pay every time I play), but I love to snorkel, and I’ve seen some beautiful reefs, but not like the ones in the Pacific. Smith says

On a healthy coral reef, you can glimpse activity and life wherever you happen to look.

From my small sample set, I can say he’s more than right. This book is full of photos, descriptions, stories of anemones and their symbiotic partners, seahorses, pipefish, sea dragons, rays, corals and anchors animals and flora, parasites and predators, large and incredibly tiny. I can’t even imagine how he managed some of the photography – some of the creatures are less than a centimeter… finding them is amazing enough! – but he’s persistent, as when he described his search for a blue-ringed octopus that took him more than a thousand dives to find (it’s only a couple of inches in size.)

For the curious, or research inclined, the text is end-noted with 190, mostly academic sources. Have at it!

Dr. Smith touches on the effects of global warming and human destruction on reefs and their ecosystems. As a lifelong student of that world with thousands of dives, he has seen devastation that others haven’t. On coral bleaching: “A diver visiting the reefs today might not be aware of the changes that have taken place and consider what they see at face value.” Corals dying because of temperatures changes, trash and pollution effects, displaced species predating on normal populations, sad photos of decapitated sharks harvested for their fins. But there are mostly just (yes, I’ll say it again) wonderful photographs of beautiful fish and reefs.

[For the publisher]
1) The photos in my epub review copy did not have a fixed aspect ratio and were compressed in my preferred portrait orientation on my iPad. They rendered properly when I turned it to landscape. I was using the Freading Adobe Digital Editions capable app.
2) One photo (Lord Howe Island’s McCulloch’s anemonefish) did not appear in landscape, but was partially visible in portrait. I was able to tap it and see the picture when the app zoomed to it.
3) In the paragraph “Few and Far Between” (page 87…pagination didn’t seem to change with text resizing), endnote number 78, Dr. Smith says 327 new “goes” were named. I think he meant “gobies” (and when I looked up the paper, the authors called them “Gobiidae”, so gobies is certainly more reader friendly.)

View all my reviews

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