ERLING SVENSEN’S SUPERB UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY AND BJØRN GULLIKSEN’S KNOWLEDGE of Norwegian marine habitats come together in this attractive and authoritative book.
Yes, it’s Norway, but many of the images will be of species familiar to British divers and, if you want to demonstrate just why you go diving to friends and family, they cannot be anything but impressed.
After an introduction that describes some of the environmental issues faced by the oceans, the book is organised by broad habitat types.
How different marine species occur according to the environmental conditions at a location is an important theme, and then the book is greatly composed of species pictures.
Some of the ecological principles that determine what lives where are explained and the resulting landscapes (or seascapes?) are brought to life in vivid colours and through water clarity that we rarely see in British waters.
There are urchin barrens through to the rich and colourful communities that occur in tide-swept sounds and on to the coral-reef habitats that come into unexpectedly shallow water in Trondheim Fjord. Fjordic habitats are, not surprisingly, a major feature and, for those British divers familiar with the west coast of Scotland, there will be much that is similar.
Sediment habitats are not forgotten but it is mostly the signs of life at the surface of those sediments that lend themselves to the photographs. Nevertheless, even sediments can be spectacularly colourful, as evidenced by the photograph of a forest of solitary hydroids, each crowned with flowing tentacles and pink reproductive organs.
Some of the most beautiful images are towards the end of the book in the chapter on open water (pelagial) habitats, where a great variety of jellyfish together with squid and crustaceans and even a starfish larva decorate the pages.
Whales and dolphins are not forgotten but there are plenty of other sources for images of such charismatic megafauna. Finally, the Arctic at Svalbard has a chapter that makes me wish I had been taken to those sites when I went there.
Throughout the text and the photographs, there will be “I didn’t know that” or “who would have thought it?” moments for the reader.
I found the pictures of copepod crustacean parasites on a sea-slug fascinating – nothing gets away without any hitchhikers. I would love to see many of the species that do not occur in British waters – but a trip to Norway will be needed!
This is a large format coffee-table book that you can browse at random, but do read the texts to pick up fascinating facts and to better understand how marine species and habitats “work“. The book will sit well on the shelf of any British marine-life enthusiast.
Don’t get the book confused with Secrets of the Seas – the two books were published at about the same time and, well, that title is now “taken”.
Dr Keith Hiscock
Hardback, 317pp, 449 krone (around £42)