Review – The Equalizer

The Equalizer Magazine

January/February 2013 Edition

Sarah Pikarski’s Book Review

The Amazing World Beneath the Waves by Gloria Barnett is a comprehensive look at our oceans and their inhabitants, and the importance of the oceans to life on Earth. Gloria uses a step-by-step, logical approach that allows you to learn without feeling as though you need to remember everything in order to be able to move on to the next section. Every chapter is filled with interesting facts and snippets of information that divers and marine enthusiasts would love to know, as well as important scientific information that everyone should understand. It is a great buy for anyone who wants to understand more about the world’s oceans, and the incredible marine life that lives there.

In clear and concise language, The Amazing World Beneath the Waves covers topics including how water came to exist on Earth, the role it played in evolution, and why we need to protect the oceans and all of their inhabitants. The science is explained clearly enough for older children who love biology and/or the sea, as well as for those of us who have not studied for a while. The physics, chemistry, geography and biology of the topics that are covered are all discussed in interesting ways, and knowledge is built up gradually to make sure you can follow it all.

Of particular interest to divers is the diverse and detailed information about the variety of marine life that exists at various depths of the oceans, and the adaptations of this marine life to the vastly different conditions that exist underwater. The more heavily scientific information is punctuated with fun snippets of knowledge about the creatures that are mentioned. One example that I particularly enjoyed is the description of how, over the space of about a month, flatfish go from a baby that looks like a ‘normal fish’ to the sideways flatfish we all know and love. Gloria Barnett rounds off the book with some important messages about the future of our oceans, which will, I hope, make a few people change the way they perceive our oceans and their relevance to generations to come.

It is not a book that you would need to read from cover to cover, though I enjoyed doing so. It can instead act as a great resource to dip in to, to obtain more information on areas that particularly interest you, and gradually build up your knowledge. For students, or those with a more academic leaning, the book is well explained and broken down into manageable sections and easy to reference topics. The way that the book layers information from a variety of academic subjects may help to bring together these differing strands of knowledge, and show them in a more complete way that is relevant to our everyday lives.

The accompanying DVD, Crazy Critters, is an interesting look at more unusual marine life, interspersed with fun facts about the creatures that can be more commonly seen. The book works well as a stand-alone informative text, but by adding the DVD, and it’s more fun, visual reinforcement, it helps some of the more scientific information to be absorbed. It is much more heavily focused on marine life than the book, with nice footage of the creatures being discussed. It is not a Hollywood production, but more of an exciting science lesson that seems to be aimed towards children and young adults. That said, there were still facts about common Red Sea marine life that I didn’t know, and in combination with some nice underwater video, made Crazy Critters interesting for me as well.

The Amazing World Beneath the Waves is a fascinating introduction to the history of our expansive oceans, the creatures that live there, and the role that all this water has played on creating and maintaining life on Earth. It is useful for children, who will cover some of these subjects in school, especially as it helps to tie them together into a bigger picture of something that is both interesting and relevant to us all. It is also interesting for anyone, like me, who finds our oceans fascinating, and wants to know more. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the world’s oceans and the creatures that live there.

 

Gloria Barnett Author of The Amazing World Beneath The Waves Interview By Sarah Pikarski

SP: Hi Gloria! You are clearly very passionate about the oceans and the role they play in our world. Where did this passion develop?

GB: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about not only oceans but ‘Planet Earth’ as well. I can remember buying a book just titled ‘Earth’ from a jumble sale when I was about 11 years old and read of how difficult it was to ‘imagine’ the length of time the Earth has been around. I loved the idea of using a 24 hour clock to show the length of time (4.6 billion years) since the beginning of the Earth – and that if we think of ‘Earth time’ as a 24 hour clock then humans have only been on Earth for the last 30 seconds. That thought makes me feel very humble about our place in the world. As far as Oceans are concerned – I did Oceanography as part of  my original Science Degree – loved it all and it has just fascinated me ever since, especially as there is so much more we need to research and find out about Oceans and the life within them.

SP: What led you to write the book and make the DVD? Which one did you start with?

GB: It started with the book. I had been doing talks to passengers on Cruise Liners for about 3 years. I always say that I’ll take questions at the end of the talk from individuals or they can ask me anything as they see me around the ship. Well on this particular cruise, up to the Arctic, after doing my last talk, of 7 talks that cruise, a group of people were waiting to ask questions at the end. I joked that they had surely asked me enough by now (having been on board for nearly a fortnight) – but no – it seems that they were ‘waiting to buy my book’! At that point I just said “What book”… Well – anyhow they persuaded me that I really should write a book so they could take it home and read about the same topics as I had been talking about on the Cruise Ship. It took nearly a year – the writing bit was easy – what took the time was organising all the amazing original photos from divers which help to illustrate the book. The DVD was just a natural follow on to the book as people really seem to love some of the clips of these very weird creatures from the underwater world. One of the favourites is the Red Sea Walker – the ‘fish that doesn’t swim’, and another favourite is the film of the Sea Cucumber.

SP: I know you are an avid diver. How much has diving contributed to your work?  

GB: Diving began as a hobby – but I soon fell in love with videoing the wildlife we were seeing. I have been very lucky to film some amazing sequences and I use some of these clips in my talks. It certainly gives my ‘audiences’ a better understanding of the world beneath the waves.

SP: Do you feel mankind does enough to maintain the equilibrium of our oceans?  

GB: Well the problem is lack of understanding of the ocean world. We are doing more now than a few decades ago to help to look after the ocean environment, such as ensuring that rubbish is not dumped in the oceans from marine transport these days but there is still loads for humans to understand if we are to maintain the health of the oceans and its wildlife. I am very concerned about the terrible treatment which sharks get from humans. Sharks are essential to a healthy ocean and they are the top predator but the killing of sharks for things like ‘shark fin soup’ is a horrific example of how some humans mistreat the wildlife on this planet. Taking of coral, or shells for the tourist trade, can also decimate the reefs in some areas and reduce species survival. I would love it if all divers could lead the way and encourage the proper respect we need to show to wildlife and the ocean ecosystems. We all need to help to educate everyone about the very special environment of our World Oceans.

SP: It seemed to me that your book, and especially DVD, are geared to teenagers as well as adults. Do you believe children in school should be better educated on the importance of protecting the balance of life in the oceans, to also protect the balance of the ecosystem outside of it?

GB: The answer definitely lies in education for both young people and adults. We need to ensure that schools introduce a better understanding of our home ‘Planet Earth’ and its ecosystems, and of how humans can protect our wonderful world, then we may better be able to protect the incredible diversity of wildlife in our oceans. Natural evolution will occur, of course, and species will become extinct because of natural processes but we need to try to change the terrible damage that humans are inflicting on other species through pure ignorance. My mission is to help to educate people of all ages about exciting science and to explain the world of oceans in everyday language. Both the book and DVD are aimed at helping everyone to understand the amazing world beneath the waves.

SP: Many things in our oceans have been shown to have medicinal qualities. Seaweed for example is often used as a herbal supplement, as it is full of essential minerals and iodine and coral has been used to replace damaged eye sockets. Do you think we should examine more closely, the possible health benefits available to us below the oceans?  

GB: I agree, there is so much in every Earth ecosystem that we still need to understand. We destroy plants and animals in Rain Forests before we have understood their benefits to humans, as well as creatures in the ocean ecosystem. Our whole planet is rich with species which use natural chemicals to help them survive and which humans could utilize to our benefit. Lots of research is being undertaken – for instance on the toxic chemicals emitted from cone snails. These snails can inject a venom which can sometimes kill humans of you stand on them, but these toxins also have a use as medicines if used in the correct way. There are lots of creatures in the deep ocean too, that we need to research.

SP: If there was one thing you would want people to learn and take away from the book and DVD, what would that be?  

GB: A love and fascination for the world that we live in – and respect for life and ecosystems which may not be part of their normal everyday human experience.

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