A manned submersible is the only way to immerse oneself in the deep sea firsthand. SCUBA equipment can’t safely take you beyond relatively shallow depths, and operating the cameras and high-tech arms of an unmanned submarine from the surface can't match the experience of dropping to the ocean's depths in the flesh. Not many people get the chance to travel this way. Even for scientists who have made multiple trips in a submersible, it is an exciting proposition every time . But if you can't climb inside a submersible in person, now you can climb inside one online with National Museum of...
While swimming off of the big island of Hawaii in Kealakekua Bay, I saw what first appeared to me as a coral head. As I approached I saw movement within the shape. To my surprise it was an enormous school of fish, tightly packed, and numbering in the tens of thousands. I dove down and took a few photos before continuing my swim. It turns out this giant group was made up of akule— Hawaiian for bigeye scad . Over the next year I would occasionally see a school of akule; I would take a few pictures, then be on my way looking for other subjects. But my fascination grew as I continued to observe...
Tags: Schooling
Very few plant species can survive close to the ocean, where pounding surf fills the air with tiny salt crystals. Too much salt is not good for us, and it is not good for most plants. When you think about it, the land side of the seashore is a really harsh environment, with crashing waves, salty spray and a constantly moving shoreline. Living things need special adaptations to survive there. One group of organisms called lichens, however, have made a specialty of surviving in difficult environments. In places like deserts and mountaintops where not much else can live, you will often find...
When I set out to write a book about mollusks (called Spirals in Time ), I wasn't quite prepared for just how many animals I would get to know. There are somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 mollusk species alive today, from clams, cockles and conches to snails, nautiluses and argonauts. I knew I wouldn’t try to name check them all or build an encyclopedia of everything that‘s known about them. Instead, my book would attempt to answer why the mollusks are so wondrous and diverse. I grew up exploring the wild, Atlantic-swashed shores of southwest England on family holidays. Back then,...
“Naut” is an ancient Greek word that means “sailor,” and when attached to the end of another noun it means voyager. Today there are all types of nauts out there―astronauts, cosmonauts, aeronauts, etc.—but the original “naut” was a sea explorer, or an aquanaut. Ironically, though we have explored space, tiptoed into volcanoes, climbed the highest peaks and drilled deep into the earth, we have only explored five percent of the ocean. An international youth group called the SCUBAnauts is doing its part to rectify this situation by focusing on the exploration and conservation of our oceans...
Polychaete worms are not your average cringe-inducing, writhing worms. (Okay, maybe some are.) They are fascinating, varied, and a critical part of our ocean. The visual variety among the more than 10,000 described species means a polychaete enthusiast is never bored. They come in every imaginable color and pattern, from completely transparent to iridescent to candy striped. You can find polychaetes of every shape from spherical to sausage-shaped to pencil thin, and every size from microscopic to several feet long. Some are smooth and sleek, others frilly and elaborate. They are numerous and...
A great surf photograph appears loose and improvised, like the waves and surfers it depicts. The reality is less spontaneous. The photos that you see in surf magazines rarely happen by accident, and could never be captured without preparation and planning that can start months before—all to capture a moment that lasts a fraction of a second. Hauling your bulky camera and housing through the surf is rarely easy, and staying in shape to withstand wave power takes ongoing work. To train, I swim in the ocean and in pools. I practice holding my breath. I spend time treading water. I kick hundreds...
Tags: Photography
Shooting seascapes often involves hiking on very delicate rock formations near tidepools and reefs full of plant and marine life. The photographer has to be very careful when walking on these rocks, not only for his or her safety, but also to avoid disrupting the natural environment. When I first began shooting seascapes, I'd often get so focused on getting the composition and lighting just right, sometimes I would start rushing and become careless. I'd scramble across the rock formations to compose shots without always giving the environment beneath my feet the care and respect it deserved...
Today’s discoveries about our planet’s biological diversity build upon the research of previous generations of scientists. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a digital library committed to providing free and open access to this treasure trove of information, much of which is held in the libraries of natural history research institutions around the world . From recent articles published via premier scientific journals to monumental volumes marking the beginning of our study of the natural world, BHL’s collections include information about species from every corner of the globe and...
I took this shot at Pfeiffer Beach, my favorite beach in my home state of California. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a very secluded beach in Big Sur where we have some of the most spectacular scenery to be found. Up until somewhat recently, Pfeiffer Beach remained a fairly well kept "secret" of area locals. If you blink an eye, you will miss the entrance to the windy road that takes you from the hairpin curves of Highway 1 down to this very special place. As is often the case, it was a very windy afternoon in autumn when I last visited Pfeiffer for the first time since I had moved...