The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss

The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss

Claire Nouvian

Cloth • List price: $60.00
256 pages, 220 color plates, 9 x 12
©2007 • ISBN: 978-0-226-59566-5 • Available
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“A stunning collection of more than 160 color photos. … Species from as far down as four and a half miles are depicted in exquisite detail; most are mere centimeters long, though the giant squid, a timid creature despite its size, grows to almost 60 feet. Fifteen short, jargon-free essays assembled by editor and French journalist Nouvian—who became enthralled with the deep after visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium—flesh out the fantastical images with scientific fact. They dismiss the myth of deep sea monsters and describe the amazing persistence of life around hydrothermal vents and methane flues; a thoughtful glossary adds to this impressive book’s popular appeal.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Many beautiful coffee-table books celebrate the world’s oceans … but few, if any, are dedicated to the life of the ocean’s deeps, which most of us will never see otherwise. Readers will pick up science journalist Nouvian’s book for its stunning, 200-plus full-page color photographs of dumbo octopi, vampire squid, frilled sharks, and hydrothermal vent worms; they will hang on to it for the well-written, extremely informative text. Extensive captions speak to each creature’s lifestyle and habitat, while short guest chapters by eminent scientists and Nouvian’s additional text provide background information on the deep ocean and its exploration.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“In the first century A.D., Pliny the Elder—in a bout of oceanic hubris—pronounced that there were precisely 176 species of marine fauna and that, ‘by Hercules, in the ocean … nothing exists which is unknown for us.’ Would that we could summon Pliny from his celestial Hall of Shame and thwack him over the head with Claire Nouvian’s The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss. For this book contains 220 color plates of life-forms whose existence was unknown not merely to Pliny but to anyone at all until the modern development of submersibles capable of plunging to depths that are the inverse of a Mount Everest … . The ones that we do know—and many of those are pictured in this book—are gloriously bizarre critters that appear to have been fashioned by Salvador Dali. They bear pulse-quickening names that are as if from some weird children's fable: naked sea butterflies, spookfish, pigbutt worms, cutthroat eels, helmet jellies, glasshead grenadiers and yeti crabs. Hued in pink, red, blue, orange, white and purple, these deep-sea denizens can seem repulsive, with their fangs and hooks and hooded eyes. Many of them, however, are balletic little beauties—bioluminescent, geometrical designs that hum with a life beyond our reach, but not, anymore, beyond our imagination.”
Tunku Varadarajan, Wall Street Journal

“A luminous voyage to the bottom of the sea. … Each of the 200-odd photographs in this book is in color. Bejeweled creatures—squid, comb jellies, octopuses, and tube worms—leap off the black pages in such a luminescent rainbow that you can’t help but realize that the ‘blackness’ of the depths is a misnomer. In many case, photographs of these organisms appear in this book for the first time anywhere. … Such intimate photographs are surely the book’s triumph. But an articulate and informative commentary accompanies them.”
Richard Ellis, Discover

“Outstanding images of deep-sea life drape the pages of The Deep. Inevitably these include the fish that can, in the words of deep-sea pioneer William Beebe, ‘outdragon’ any figment of human imagination. Equally welcome is the showing this book gives to invertebrates. My favourite is the giant isopod Bathynomus, whose alien face looms out at us. This visual feast is accompanied by equally evocative essays from deep-sea biologists: Cindy Van Dover, director of Duke University’s marine lab in North Carolina, narrates a history of deep-sea exploration, for example, while Craig Young, director of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, describes the scale of the ocean floor. Words and images combine to convey what we know—and how much we don’t know—about life in our planet’s largest habitat.”
Jon Copley, New Scientist

“This superbly designed large-format book of photographs of deep-sea creatures, eloquently edited by a French journalist and film director, with brief and highly readable contributions from sixteen leading scientific explorers of the deep, is eye-poppingly magnificent. So much so that it provokes gasps of amazement and awe at the complexity, beauty and uniqueness of life in the abyss. One frequently finds oneself wondering whether the weird creatures floating in the darkness like visiting space aliens can really exist—except in the minds of special-effects artists (a sensation that Nouvian herself felt when she first fell for them in a documentary film in 2001). Easily in the same visual league as the BBC’s series Planet Earth, The Deep provides a lot more knowledge than the television series for those who want it, without at any point overwhelming the non-biologist reader. … The Deep deserves to become a modern classic of natural history.”
Andrew Robinson, Literary Review

“Nouvian’s The Deep features more than 200 color portraits of the planet’s least-known creatures: sparkling pink octopi like floating lanterns; iridescent squid with corkscrew tails; predatory fish with hooded eyes and translucent teeth looming in the darkness. Some of these are the first-ever photographs of certain organisms. At least eight of the pictures feature animals so unknown that Nouvian’s captions list them as ‘unidentified.’ To page through her book is to feel as if you are peering at life on another planet: It is a vision of the deep as a vast, balletic swarm of nature’s inventiveness.”
Anthony Doerr, Boston Globe

“The book is composed of giant (frequently larger-than-life-size) photographs of deep-sea creatures: the gelatinous Pandea rubra, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a police strobe light; the seed-like larvae of the Spantagoid heart urchin, whose appendages stretch at near-perfect right angles; glass octopi like living x-rays, frilled sharks, furry lobsters. In all, nearly 200 creatures, some of which have never been photographed before, many of which are unknown species, all of which seem unreal, incomprehensible even. Nouvian divides the organisms roughly in half—‘Life at the Bottom’ is one cluster, ‘Life in the Water Column’ another—and intersperses the photos with short essays written by marine biologists from around the world. These pieces cover everything from the history of deep-sea exploration to the truth about sea monsters to the science behind bioluminescence (‘without any doubt the most widely used mode of communication on the planet’) and, thankfully, are both excellently written and spare. They provide background without ever detracting from the point—the creatures themselves. Early on, Nouvian includes a telling quote by deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard (of Titanic-discovery fame): ‘At a time when most think of outer space as the final frontier, we must remember that a great deal of unfinished business remains here on Earth.’ The Deep highlights just how accurate that outlook is.”
Abby Seiff, Popular Science blog

“The brilliant photography conveys the mix of beauty, mystery and nightmare in these creatures—from giant squids to worms which are longer than blue whales—all backed up with excellent essays from the world’s top marine biologists.”
Fergus Collins, BBC Focus Magazine

“Bizarre species from as far down as four and half miles are shown in remarkable detail, their tentacles lashing, eyes bulging, lights flashing. The eerie translucence of many of the gelatinous creatures seems to defy common sense. They seem to be living water. On page after page, it is as if aliens had descended from another world to amaze and delight. A small octopus looks like a child’s squeeze toy. A seadevil looks like something out of a bad dream. A Ping-Pong tree sponge rivals artwork that might be seen in an upscale gallery. Interspersed among 220 color photographs are essays by some of the world’s top experts on deep-sea life that reflect on what lies beneath.”
William Broad, New York Times

“Each squid, jellyfish, and deepsea worm is posed in all its baroque extravagance against a stark black background, occupying a full or double-page spread. The effect is startling, like a series of underwater mug shots crafted by Fabergé. Ms. Nouvian… has enlisted 15 scientists from such research institutes as the Smithsonian, Woods Hole, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium itself, to contribute brief but lively reports on everything from ‘sharks of the dark’ to methane seeps and hydrothermal vents. There is a handy depth chart keyed to each image, a glossary, a page of interesting oceanic statistics, and a good bibliography. Good as the texts and aids are, the images carry the book; they are simply spectacular.”
Eric Ormsby, New York Sun

“Stunning pictures.… The book provides an extraordinary procession of beauties, some of them never photographed before. They include the black-eyed squid Gonatus onyx, tenderly hugging its 2,000 eggs in a pouch that it will tug around for up to nine months; the siphonophore Praya dubia, a poisonous superorganism that grows up to 40 metres long, snaking gently through the deep like a wisp of gleaming rope; and the glowing sucker octopus Stauroteuthis syrtensis, flourishing a skirt like a tutu and string of tiny lanterns on each tentacle, 2 km below the surface. The pictures are backed up by brief essays from some of the big players in ocean research. All tell the story of evolution’s marvellous variety. But many warn that this newly observed richness is already at risk, from deep-water trawling, pollution and global warming. We never knew it was there, and soon, perhaps, it won't be.”
Tim Radford, Guardian

“Weirdness and beauty are often paired in the 170 species portrayed in this visual survey of deep-sea diversity. Nouvian provides the color photos, most taken by researchers, with extended captions that describe the animals’ lifestyles and habitats…. Short topical essays from eminent deep-sea biologists cover related aspects of marine science, history, and conservation.”

“Here is a book that does justice to this amazing environment and its inhabitants. The text is written by oceanographers from marine institutions across the globe. They have supplied short, readable introductions to their areas of interest, packed with bites of breathtaking information. Stunning underwater photographs are given full pages or spreads in this large-format hardback book to reveal all their glorious detail—each caption clearly stating the animals’ actual size to put them into context. Another helpful feature is the scale on the bookflap that matches up to a mark on each photo, showing the maximum depth at which each species is found.”
BBC Wildlife Magazine

“No photo collection could replicate a visit to their realm or the breadth of the diversity to be found there, but Claire Nouvian’s The Deep, with more than 200 large-format photos, comes closer than any previous book.… The Deep offers spectacular views of such marvels as bioluminescent dragonfishes and a googly-eyed glass squid. Other animals have less colourful names, but are exquisitely beautiful. It is difficult to imagine anyone who would not be enchanted by the creatures on display. Each organism receives proper treatment in Nouvian’s clever extended captions. She describes, for instance, the naked sea butterfly’s ‘somewhat barbaric table manners’, which involve pulling sea snails from their shells with hooks and swallowing them whole, or the sea spider with a penchant for driving its proboscis into prey ‘like a straw into a milkshake’. The book also includes a collection of essays by prominent deep-sea biologists from around the world, on topics from trenches and seamounts to the varied uses of bioluminescence. These lend valuable context to the photos. It is remarkable that almost all the photos are drawn straight from researchers, not professional photographers—the deep’s creatures are beautiful, bizarre, and at times even grotesque enough to capture attention without any fashion photography. This wealth of photos just needed to be made available; in doing so, Nouvian has done both the field and the public a service.”
Mark Schrope, Nature

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