Book Review: The Brilliant Abyss, Helen Scales

Book Review: The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It, Helen Scales

The Brilliant Abyss, Helen Scales

Nonfiction/Science: The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It, Helen Scales

 

The Brilliant Abyss is a powerful book about what may truly be considered our most unknown frontier. Much more is known about our solar system than is known about the deep ocean, even though we rely on that ocean for food, climate, and so many other necessities. Inhabited by incredible creatures, dotted with fantastic features, weighted by enormous water pressure, the deep ocean is cold, dark, and forbidding.

 

Yet recent discoveries have revealed that it is a world full of life and wonder. Amazing creatures that sometimes live for hundreds or even thousands of years live in an environment completely alien and inhospitable to life on the surface. Creating their own light sources, living under immense pressure that they seem impervious to, exposed to extremes of bitter cold or in some cases boiling heat and (to us) poisonous conditions, the creatures of the deep have evolved extraordinary means to survive their extraordinary environments.

 

Still, for all their extraordinary adaptations to cold and heat, pressure and poison, darkness and distance, the creatures of the abyss have never adapted to the most destructive force on earth: humans. As the climate changes, the oceans are in peril. Rising temperatures and falling oxygen levels are changing the ocean in unknown ways. Oil spills from deep water wells are creating dead spots on the ocean floor and above. Resource extractors are avidly looking for opportunities: rare earth minerals for technology, metals for engineering. Deep sea trawlers are destroying slow-growing corals that have survived for millennia but cannot withstand the pressures of exploitation. Much as open pit mining has scraped the tops off mountains, ocean peaks have also been destroyed. Unlike the very visible effects of that work on the surface, below the waves the destruction remains hidden and unknown, yet devastating to the species that live in the ocean.

 

As these pressures continue to mount, we not only have to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. We may have to ask ourselves whether we are making a world we cannot live in at all.

 

The Brilliant Abyss, Helen Scales

Book Review: The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It, Helen Scales

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