Monday, June 13, 2011

Adventure Beneath the Sea

Boyds Mills Press routinely publishes some of the very best non-fiction books on the market, and this is yet another excellent addition to their collection. Three and a half miles offshore the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and sixty feet under the Atlantic ocean sits Aquarius, the world's only undersea research station. This pressure-resistant steel cylinder allows author Kenneth Mallory and National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry to spend seven days living in the Atlantic ocean, studying and exploring the sea life. Their findings make for this fascinating book ... a real life adventure beneath the sea.     

Although Aquarius is a self-contained space for living, it's a tight fit with dimensions of only 43 feet long and 9 feet in diameter. The underwater pod is attached to a large above water platform called the Life Support Buoy, which produces a steady flow of air and communicates with Mission Control on land. After extensive training, the pair pass the tests necessary to allow them to live underwater for the next seven days.

Living underwater means that they will be able to become humans living like fishes. Actually, they will use scuba equipment and a tagging system to track fish around the reef to see where they go. At a later date, conservation biologists will use this information to design better habitats to protect fish. Very cleverly, the divers devise a way to implant a tracking device inside a moray eel (who are not as easy to catch as the smaller fish): using a bologna sandwich as bait.     

The first chapter explains the station and the second chapter gives a rundown of their mission. Chapter three covers the extensive training process needed to set foot on Aquarius, and chapters four and five show what life is like for the next week. All the chapters are accompanied by magnificent underwater photography that makes the whole book come alive. The clear, straighforward writing paired with the photographs really give readers a great sense of what living on Aquarius would be like.Consequently, this book treads the fine line of being both a good learning tool and immensely interesting. 

Review copy provided by Boyds Mills Press.

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