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

Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780802158222. $27. NAT HIST
Scales (marine biology, Cambridge Univ.) introduces readers to the deep ocean, which begins where photosynthesis stops, 660 feet below the surface. Humans have interacted almost exclusively with the ocean’s surface and edges, but the deep comprises far more of the ocean’s volume and is likely more vital to the continuation of life on earth, Scales writes. Her book is in four sections: “Explore,” about the geography, chemistry, and life of the deep; “Depend,” on the abyss that makes Earth habitable by sequestering carbon; “Exploit,” which tells of overfishing, underwater strip-mining, and dumping (everything from plastics to dead livestock to a radioactive generator from Apollo 13; and “Preserve,” which relates efforts underway to preserve the deep ocean from further exploitation by mining companies or the fishing industry. Scales concludes with a list of actions necessary to preserve the global abyss: pressuring governments to enact protective laws and treaties; supporting NGOs with the same goals; refusing to eat seafood that is extracted from the deep ocean; decreasing use of plastics; and lowering our carbon footprints.
VERDICT A fascinating international glimpse of Earth’s last frontier that will draw in readers concerned for the health of our oceans.
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