Above: Detail of the cover

This detail from the book shows the yellow starfish habitat, prior to submerging, at the right.

World Without Sun

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

New York: Harper&Row,  1964-5

Cousteau's classic account of life in "a comfortable wilderness lodge we had built three thousand miles from Paris." This was 'Conshelf Two,' perhaps the first human colony on the sea floor, 33 feet beneath the Red Sea off the coast of Sudan.

It is perhaps curious that the age of human habitation of the ocean, launched so avidly in the 1960s and 1970s, has more or less ended. Today, the Aquarius habitat (Florida, USA) remains a lonely undersea outpost, and the interest in undersea habitats is mostly extinct.



Detail from Gosse, plate 8, including actinia and corynactis 

A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast

Philip Henry Gosse

London: John Van Voorst, 1853

"You are seriously ill, Henry," said my wife; you have been in the study a great deal too much lately; you must throw it all up, and take a trip into the country."

 The result? A classic book with extraordinary illustrations, many in color. For a wide audience, Gosse provided the first glimpse of the extraordinary diversity and curious beauty of underwater life.




Detail of gilt cover 

Young Walruses asleep on deck

The Wonders of Marine Life 

(no author)

New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1894 124 pages.

This delightful volume includes exquisite engravings, some amusingly out of date. 

The text at times reminds us of what we have lost in the last 100 years (both in ocean diversity and our knowledge of poetry), for example in the section on the Argonaut:

"It is not uncommon for the sailor to observe a fleet of a hundred of these beautiful creatures sailing over the calm sunset seas and decked in a  thousand brilliant colors. At the slightest alarm, they fold their sails and sink down to the bottom of the seas. All lovers of English literature are familiar with Holmes's charming poem entitled "The Nautilus," wherein he describes the appearance of this interesting little navigator of the ocean tides."




Model of the Funafuti Atoll, from volume 1

The Atoll of Funafuti: Borings into a Coral Reef and the Results

London: The Royal Society, 1904.

This is volume 1 of the pioneering study that attempted to confirm Darwin's theory of coral reef formation. We need volume 2--does anyone have a copy?

  Available at the Monterey Bay Aquarium 

Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painleve  

Bellows and McDougall, editors. Brico Press: 2000

Among the earliest underwater documentarians, his film The Octopus was made in 1928. Painleve was born in Paris in 1902 and died in 1989.

"You alone stand as competitor to Our Lady Of Lourdes, as far as miracles are concerned..." 

 Sergei Eisenstein, writing to Painleve.