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BOOK REVIEWS ..

 
STARS BENEATH THE SEA by Trevor Norton.
Random House, London, Sydney, 1999.

Who are our underwater heroes? Cousteau and Hass come readily to mind, and to the historically educated, no doubt Gagnan, umas and Taillez, Siebe and Davis, Rouquayrol and Denayrouze; perhaps (being rather parochial) Ben Cropp and the Taylors.But what of the man who gave Hans Hass his first lessons in diving, Guy Gilpatrick, or the incredible naturalists Henri dwards and Roy Miner, the depth-defying Charles William Beebe, or the remarkable English marine biologist and educator Jack Alwyne Kitching?

These were truly remarkable pioneers of diving, setting standards and procedures for divers to follow, opening the underwater orld to the closed minds of the university academics who could not comprehend what they could not see. Of Haldane, father and son, we, perhaps, know a little, for they set the standards for breathing air at high pressures resulting in the development of ecompression tables, and the use of a helium-oxygen breathing mix.  Underwater photographers know of the name Boutan, or at least should do - but perhaps less so, John Ernest Williamson. Those who prefer sunken ships, know of Robert Ballard, and perhaps Bass, Marx and Stenuit, but what of Peter Throckmorton?

These remarkable men make up ‘The Extraordinary Lives of the Pioneers of Diving', the subtitle of Professor Trevor Norton's brilliant book. That it should have become a best-seller and acclaimed by all who read it, Stars Beneath the Sea owes its appeal not only in its remarkable subject matter but more so on the succinct and eloquent style of the author, peppered with humour and anecdote. No academic waffle here - this is fine English prose written with wit, compassion and pride. I found it to be one of the most rewarding books on diving I have ever read, providing relaxed entertainment with a wealth of knowledge. It is only by appreciating the past that we can strive for the future, and without doubt these pioneers, most of them the quiet achievers,  have influenced us in so many ways that we cannot fully appreciate. This is no rehash of the ‘history of diving'. Norton writes from first-hand interviews and archival records, providing original material of immense value. In providing us with a even a glimpse of the past, Stars Beneath the Sea is a most remarkable and enjoyable book.
 
 

UNDER SOUTHERN SEAS - The Ecology of Australia's Rocky Reefs. Edited by Neil Andrew.
The rocky reefs that surround a great part of our southern coastline are the breeding grounds for the majority of offshore marine species, the beginning of the food chain, the basis of recreational and commercial fishing, and the playground of homo sapiens. Often these situations conflict hence the necessity to understand and appreciate the environment so that all requirements are sustained. For us divers, the pursuit of knowledge through books should be a pleasurable one, with a balance of narrative detail and fine photographic imagery.  Under Southern Seas fits the bill admirably. Despite the chapter authors being academics, this is a most readable and enjoyable book, and the status of the authors as marine biologists provides the credibility of the text. Add the brilliant design of Di Quick at University of NSW Press and you have one of the finest marine life books produced in Australia.
Five chapters cover the general biology and coastal geography of each of the southern states - in itself a most useful background for all divers. This is followed by chapters on kelp forests, abalone, octopuses, jellyfish, lobsters, sea urchins, and the sessile animals - the sponges, bryozoans etc. How long do giant kelp live? How do abalone reproduce? (Very slowly you may suggest). Why do jellyfish sting? Are urchins just a pain in the leg? With such knowledge we are better able  not only to enjoy our favoured diving environment but to also be ecologically aware of the part we play in the life of the oceans. This is not simply an identification guide, yet it is  comprehensive in its coverage of the various animals and their habitat. Under Southern Seas will be judged along with other great classics such as Dakin and Bennett's Australian Seashores (1952, 1987), and Edgar's Australian Marine Life (1997). Under Southern Seas is a must read for all temperate water divers, and a credit to all those involved in its production. Hardcover, A4 size, dust jacket, full colour, 238 pages, index, bibliography.
Review by Peter Stone, Scuba Diver magazine, July/August 2000
 
 

TREASURES, TRAGEDIES AND TRIUMPHS OF THE BATAVIA COAST, by Max Cramer.
Max Cramer has had a remarkable life. As the primary discoverer of the Dutch merchantman Batavia in the Abrolhos Islands, in 1963, he has been actively involved in the Dutch wrecks along the Western Australian coast. His discovery and early diving on the wrecks makes for fascinating reading as they are a first-hand contemporary account of diving and maritime archaeology.  Cramer tells of his early days at Shark Bay, the Montebello Islands, Rowley Shoals, hard-hat and commercial diving, treasure hunting, spearfishing, and replica ships. The discovery and subsequent excavation of the Batavia is covered in some detail, as are the other Dutch wrecks Gilt Dragon  (and the fascinating controversy surrounding one Alan Robinson), Zutydorp and Zeewyk. Who indeed discovered the Gilt Dragon ? At times, Cramer's narrative reads like a detective novel. Other shipwrecks mentioned are the Georgette, Mayhill, Stanford, Stefana, and HMAS Sydney. These are his memoirs, the life of a great Australian. A great read with excellent writing and fascinating detail, particularly for anyone interested in shipwrecks and early diving in Australia. Hardcover (laminated boards), 332 pages, mainly mono photos and diagrams, with eight colour plates.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine. September/October 2000.
 
 

CRUSTACEA GUIDE OF THE WORLD  by Helmut Debelius. Publishers: IKAN.
When Helmut Debelius publishes a new guide, it's a fair bet that it will prove to be the ultimate of its kind.  In this volume the German writer/photographer has'lovingly compiled a register of practically every shrimp, crab, lobster and amphipod a diver could hope to encounter.  Any divers who once thought they knew a thing or two about these critters, will come to realise the depth of their ignorance when confronted with these 321 densely-packed pages of creepycrawlies.
With each species, we get a Latin name (and a common name, where possible); length and distribution; and general information and descriptions of the animal's behaviour.  This isn't the sort of book you can knock together after a misspent adolescence in the Red Sea - the sheer amount of data, matched with excellent colour images from Debelius and a cast list of world-class photographers, means that it is a one-off.  Quite simply, no one else could have done it.  Crustaceans were his first love, and this is a book born of love (the kind of love which borders on obsessive madness).
Debelius might have the instinct of a biologist, but he is also a populist, and makes a point of breaking up the text with features, indepth essays, and oddities such as Lionel Pozzoli's photograph of a pair of cleaner shrimps beavering away at Mrs Pozzoli's teeth.
Elsewhere, we get illustrated places on moulting lobsters, the hulking Alaskan king crab, the mangrove habitat, the red crabs of Christmas Island, and freshwater crustaceans.  Prize of place goes to the colourful tropical lobster Enoplometopus debelius, one of the author's own discoveries.  But my favourite section is a photo-feature contributed by Bob Halstead, in which for absolutely no reason we are treated to the sight of a mantis shrimp, roughing up a toy dinosaur placed close to its lair by the mischievous snapper.
With this book, Debelius brings the bizarre world of crustacea vividly to life, for everyone.  A fine achievement, and worthy of a place in any serious diver's library.
Review  by Simon Rogerson. Sport Diving magazine, Aug/Sept 2000
See below also.
 

CRUSTACEA GUIDE OF THE WORLD by Helmut Debelius. One of the IKAN series.
I had the pleasure of meeting Debelius last year and soon appreciated why he is such a remarkable man. His knowledge of the marine world, coupled with a keen eye and brilliant underwater photography skills, complement his attitude toward perfection in all that he does. His IKAN series of books, now numbering eight in the English language alone, have established him not only as a brilliant author but a likewise publisher. Crustacea Guide of the World is the latest in the series (although not for long, with Coral Sea Reef Guide due out mid 2000). This book covers the general shrimps, crabs, lobsters, mantis and harlequin shrimps, and amphipods, within the regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, Red Sea, Mediterranean, Pacific and Indian Ocean. Rarely do we dive without experiencing the pleasure of seeing a cleaner shrimp assisting a fish or moray to performing their ablutions, or a sponge crab trying desperately to disguise itself. And if we fail to catch a cray scurrying across the seabed, at least we can learn more of their biology and habitat.  Like all IKAN titles, Crustacea is a superb identification guide and reference, covering aspects of behaviour and habitat. Hardcover, full colour, 318 pages.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine. September/October 2000
See above also.
 
 

THE CORAL REEFS OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, by Dinah and Bob Halstead, and Sergio Sarta.
This superb book may well have been published with the assistance of aid funding for the International Year of the Coral Reef (1997), and the International Year of the Oceans (1998), but the end result is more than just an ecological awareness promotion. This is a magnificent book, very well designed, and made exceptional by the superb photography of the three authors. Bob and Dinah are well known to many divers who have enjoyed diving in Papua New Guinea on their custom built diveboat Telita. The marine life illustrated in the book is unique; the authors know how to capture a subject (as they should with over 10,000 dives to their credit in PNG), and do it in such a manner that the end result is a beautiful image, combining art with graphic description. The text is concise and relevant. If you have dived anywhere in Papua New Guinea, this is a wonderful memento. If you are into superb photography, then it deserves a place in your library. And look at the value. Hardcover, dust jacket, quality art paper, full colour, half and full page photographs, 208 pages.
review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine, July/August 2000.
 
 

CORAL SEA REEF GUIDE by Bob Halstead. Publisher: IKAN.
Dugong Dudley is just one of the many marine creatures listed in this magnificent reef guide; he gets a special mention as one of the interesting  ‘picture stories' scattered throughout the book. Exceptionally well laid out, the Coral Sea Reef Guide is one of the superb IKAN series of books produced by photographer/writer/publisher Helmut Debelius. The full colour identification guide contains exquisite underwater photos of over 1000 marine species, from Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia - those nations that border the Coral Sea. And who better to write and photograph such an ambitious project than Bob Halstead, well known for his dive expeditions around PNG, and his many books and articles. Coral Sea Reef Guide covers the fishes, corals, crustacea, snails, mollusca, gorgonia, soft corals (not the hard corals), and anemones, cephalopods, plants and sponges, reptiles and mammals - its all here in one hardcover volume, the definitive guide to the marine life at the most popular dive destinations visited by Australian divers. The book is divided into phylum down through class and family to the individual species. The descriptive text is concise; the  colour photographs are excellent, clear and relevant, with generally three to a page and some full page plates. Photo locations are indicated, and the distribution of all animals. Along with the descriptive information to identify each species, the book includes interesting behavioural and habitat information, and twenty-four excellent ‘picture stories' such as ‘coral spawning', ‘crocodile with gills', ‘how to catch a sea urchin', and the whimsical ‘what really happened to the dinosaurs'.
Reviewed by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 
 

THETIS - The Admiralty Regrets. C. Warren & J. Benson.
You have probably never heard of the Thetis, but if you have a dim recollection of the name, may have said that she was just another submarine lost during the second world war. Not so. The Thetis was a brand spanking new 270ft submarine built at the Cammell Laird's shipyards at Birkenhead (England). On 1 June 1939 (before the declaration of war), she left the Mersey and headed out into Liverpool Bay on her sea trails - her first sea dives. With 103 people on board, five hours later she was lying with her bow stuck in the mud at 160 ft, and her stern protruding some thirty feet out of the choppy seas. Four men managed to escape using the new Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus, a small rebreather unit designed by Sir Robert Davis at Siebe-Gorman. Others tried and died, trapped like rats in the small escape champer. It had never been tried in a real submarine escape before. The rest of the shipbuilding engineers and staff, and the Navy evaluation crew, waited for rescue, which was sure to come as the stern was exposed and clearly visible. But the attempted rescue was one of the worst bungles in British naval history, exposing the sorry state of communications and rivalry within the Royal Navy. The ninety-nine remaining in the submarine died a slow death, asphyxiated as their carbon dioxide levels built up. The death list reached one hundred when a diver in standard dress died from the bends complicated by a lung disease. Thetis was eventually raised, nearly five months later. It required the services of a mine rescue team to perform the gruesome task of recovering the bodies. The submarine returned to Birkenhead where she was refitted, renamed Thunderbolt, and went into service against the Germans. She was sunk once again with all hands, (and not recovered), in March 1943, by the Italian sloop Cicogna.
This is a truly remarkable book, one that you will not wish to put down once started. It tells of the suffering of the men trapped in the hull as failed attempts were made to secure the submarine and rescue those within. It tells of the courageous, and lucky escape, of four men, and how four others died a horrible death. It tells of the conspiracy to hush up the true events that took place, the buck shoving, and lack of responsibility of the Royal Navy. And of course, it tells of how such a tragedy could have occurred in the first place, and the subsequent successful salvage of the submarine. Was the Admiralty more concerned about saving the submarine, rather than rescuing the civilians and navy men on board?
Reviewed by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine. September/October 2000
 
 

REEF LIFE by Denise Nielson Tackett & Larry Tackett. Publisher: Microcosm Ltd.
Fantastic life forms - Rare and unusual reef animals captured in their natural haunts.  Face-to-face encounters - Intimate observations from a decade of underwater research.  Biology in action - Fundamental lessons in reproduction and other marine life processes.
Proflles in biodiversity - The fishes, invertebrates, and other animals of the coral realm.
A must-have bookfor every diver, aquarist, and underwater naturalist who wants to slow doum and understand what he or she is seeing on the coral reef or in the marine aquafium.
Reef Life - Natural History and Behaviours of Marine Fishes and Invertebrates. 240 pages, over 300 colour photographs. 200mm x 250mm Soft cover.  ISBN 1-890087-56-4.  For more information, contact Microcosm Ltd, Shelburne, Vermont U&4. +1 802 985 2700. wwwmicrocosm-books.com
Review by Scott W. Michael. Sport Diving magazine, Aug/Sept 2000
(Not listed as yet).
 
 

DOWN TIME: GREAT WRITERS ON DIVING.  Edited by Ed, Casey and Jim Kittrell.
Great Writers on Diving? Hey, how come I'm not included? This excellent book includes writers such as Peter Benchley, William Beebe, Guy Gilpatric, Clare Boothe Luce, Hans Hass, Eugenie Clark, Bucky McMahon ("Who the hell is Bucky McMahon?"), Michael Crichton (the Michael Crichton), Tim Cahill, Philippe Diole and many others who have contributed to diving or marine literature in some way. Okay, these writers are way above my status - and that what makes this a truly great book, one of high literary standard and a marvellous contribution to the enjoyment of diving and the oceans. Some of the authors are Pulitzer Prize, and national Book Award winners, scientists and adventurers, playwrights and movie makers. That in itself may not make them great writers, but it sure gives them an opportunity to draw on some remarkable material.
"From the lagoon at Rangiroa to the reefs of the Red Sea ... from deep within caves to under the ice... from the lethal silliness of nitrogen narcosis to the elation of soaring over unfathomable depths... every selection, like every dive, is a unique experience." As Jean-Michel Cousteau writes, "Divers often struggle to put their experiences into words, but here are the voices of well-known writers who have ventured into the underwater world. They turn diving into an journey of the mind and spirit." Cousteau sums up Down Time beautifully. Who better to write on diving with sharks than Michael Crichton, a master of suspense - and of course Hass and Clark (but she writes on cave diving). This is not macho stuff - this is real life experiences and observations by writers who know how to string two words together. A truly remarkable book and a great credit to the editors and publishers. It will no doubt remain a major works in the library of the oceans for, perhaps, eternity, as it serves to document "the voices" of so many interesting people. (Am I in the next volume? Sure - and the meek will inherit the world).
Softcover, 262 pages.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 
 

MARINE LIFE OF THE GALAPAGOS, by Pierre Constant.
"A Guide to the Fishes, Whales, Dolphins and Other Marine Animals".
The Galapagos islands are remote, off Ecuador in the far eastern Pacific. It is not a place that most of us will visit and yet it is, ecologically and ‘evolutionally' one of the most remarkable island groups in the world. Charles Darwin postulated here and seemingly myriads of marine scientists and naturalists have studied its unique marine life. Pierre Constant is just one, but unlike so many authors who have produced ‘picture books' on the islands, Constant has documented the marine life in a sensible, and interesting, manner. From my experience with marine literature, the blurb on the outside cover is true - ‘This book is the first marine guide ever made on the subject'. There are a number of Galapagos picture books on the market, but this is the first I have seen to describe the marine life in some detail. Constant takes the opportunity to draw attention to the threat of destruction of the islands species through commercial exploitation, despite the Galapagos Marine Reserve being created in 1986. His dedication of the book to the people of the Galapagos is compassionate and moving. A simple and useful guide. Softcover, 248 pages, 216 colour photographs, and line drawings.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 
 

THE GRAND SCUTTLE, by Dan Van der Vat.
"The Sinking of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1919".
Call it the ‘Truk Lagoon of the British Isles' if you like, but the loss of shipping at Scapa Flow  in the Orkney islands off Scotland is one of the most bizarre of all wartime incidents. On 21 June 1919, the German high Seas Fleet, one of the most formidable ever built and prime cause for the Great War, was deliberately sent to the bottom by its own officers and men. "The Grand Scuttle" became a folk legend in both Germany and Britain. After all, how often does an admiral order the sinking of his own, complete, fleet. If the scuttling was remarkable, more so was the purchase of the fleet and the attempted raising of some of the war ships for scrap. Van der Vat documents meticulously the reasons for this massive act of destruction (with lesser details on the subsequent salvage), providing a remarkable insight into German thinking at the time. Anyone interested in  wreck diving will be educated, amused and entertained by The Grand Scuttle. If only the Germans had done it in Port Phillip!
Soft cover, 240 pages, mono plates.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 
 

ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO COMPOSITION, by  Jim Church
‘A Simplified Approach to Taking Better Underwater Pictures'.  We all know Jim Church for his Nikonos photography and videography books - after all, he has been taking photographs and writing for the past thirty years, and is quite an authority on the subject. Church's latest book fills a gap since Howard Halls' Successful Underwater Photography, in that it concentrates on the fundamental task of good photography - composition. Essential Guide to Composition should take the photographer from snapshots that only the closest members of the family will admire, to award winning images. This is a companion title to Church's very popular Essential Guide to Nikonos Systems, although it matters not what type of camera you use. Without composition you have a snapshot, not a photograph. Using examples from his own extensive library, and from other photographers, Church describes the photographs - how they were shot, and why. No book can improve the ‘perceptive eye' of a photographer, but the adherance to a few faithrule rules - and the adventurous breaking of these same rules - will lead to imaginative results. Anyone even moderately serious in improving their underwater photography would benefit from this excellent book.  Softcover, 136 pages, full colour, index, selected references.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 
 

THE DARKNESS BECKONS by Martin Farr. Publisher: Diadem Books.
The History and Development of Cave Diving
It must be nearly twenty years ago when I straddled "The Shaft" at Mount Gambier and helped my companions down the narrow manhole-like entrance. I didn't dive as I had a few too many drinks the night before. No problems. The Shaft will always be there and I could come back in a few weeks. Not so. Next week four people died in this incredible cavern. The Shaft was closed, and effectively remains so.
Martin Farr mentions the tragedies in Mount Gambier when eleven people died over five years during the infancy stage of the development of the sport in Australia. That such tragedy has never been repeated is a credit to the Cave Divers Association of Australia which has set high standards and stuck to them.
But The Darkness Beckons (what a brilliant title) is not about Mount Gambier.  This is about the world of cave diving, (one of the most dangerous of sporting pursuits), by one of the world's finest cave divers. Originally published in 1980 when it concentrated on British activities, (an extension of potholing), it has been completely rewritten and extended to cover the international scene - which includes France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. In fact we rate over fourteen pages, describing predominantly the world-record feats in the Nullabor Caves.
Cave diving has a fascination even to those of us with claustrophobic tendencies. This is danger and daring, requiring personal and technical skill of the highest order - the "lure and challenge of exploring the black unknown ... one of the true last frontiers remaining on the planet."
The Darkness Beckons begins with The Origins, the challenge of cave diving and the first "cave diver" back in 1777. The modern "games" commenced in 1922 when Frenchman Norbert Casteret made an incredible free-dive assault on the Grotte de Montespan in the Pyrenees; Bob Leakey's gutsy attempt in 1941  to tame Mossdale Caverns in Yorkshire; and Cousteau's 1946 Vaucluse dives. The use of standard gear (hard-hat)  in the construction of the Severn Tunnel is fascinating; and the subsequent development of cave diving after Cousteau-Gagnin developed the "aqualung".
Cave Diving in Britain and Ireland covers just on 20% of the book, so the book can hardly be deemed excessively parochial. The International scene covers nearly a hundred pages. This is not however a dive guide for the speleologist; nor is it a manual of technique. Open to any page in this fascinating book and you will be compelled to read on - of danger, of death, of intricate preparation and frustrating delays, of men and women who seem to be obsessed, giving truth to the bumper sticker Cave Divers Penetrate Further.
Australia is well covered. The 1972 expedition to Weebubbie led by Ian Lewis  opened up this cave system to further exploration. Hugh Morrison's 1979-82 Cocklebiddy attempts are well documented, Hugh and his team receiving the respect for several incredible penetrations - over six kilometres from the main chamber entrance. Then came the French team in 1983, and the 1980-88 Pannikin Plain expeditions. Mount Gambier gets a proportionately brief mention only as the book is centred mainly on penetration rather than depth (and beauty).
Frankly, I couldn't put this book down. The Darkness Beckons is exceptionally well written, non-technical, and well supported with clear diagrams and over two hundred photographs, many in colour. Even if you have no aspirations to be a cave diver, or are a failed example of same as I am, this book is a must for the library. Even those poor unfortunate souls who have never donned a mask and fins would find this book compelling. It is  on the top of the list for the best book released (in Australia) during 1993.
Reviewed by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 
 

THE LOST SHIPS OF GUADALCANAL by Robert D.Ballard with Rick Archbold.  Publisher: Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
The loss of the heavy cruiser H.M.A.S.Canberra is only one of many Allied and Japanese ships sent to the bottom of Ironbottom Sound in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War, but it is one that has particular interest for most Australians. In several devastating attacks which destroyed such notable American ships as the Vincennes, Quincy and Astoria during the infamous Battle of Savo Island,  Canberra did not even manage one effective retaliating shot. She died slowly, completely disabled, listing heavily and her Captain mortally wounded. When all wounded were evacuated, a torpedo from the American destroyed Ellet provided the coup de grace.
It was only a matter of time before the "Titanic man", Dr Robert Ballard showed an interest in Guadalcanal. Having found and filmed the lost White Star liner, his The Discovery of the Titanic became a best-seller, not only as a record of his remarkable achievement, but also for the magnificent images of the ship captured by his submersible, and the brilliant drawings created by Ken Marschall.  This was followed by The Discovery of the Bismarck, of lesser general interest but never the less fascinating.
Guadalcanal was a challenge for Ballard. The Canberra, the only Australian warship sunk in the Solomons during World War 2, was lost in over a thousand feet, a formidable depth but one not to compare with the Titanic.
Ballard arrived in the Solomons somewhat better equipped than the regular tourist diver. On board his ship, which incidentally was fitted with the most sophisticated electronic equipment, were deep-tow sonar torpedoes, a remote-operated submersible, and a three-man submarine, Sea Cliff, similar to Alvin used on the Titanic.   Ballard targeted the Canberra (for which we are most grateful), and the American heavy cruiser Quincy as his main objectives. Why these two? "Canberra ... bore the brunt of the first phase of the Japanese attack. Quincy ... put up the bravest fight of the three cruisers .. in the second phase."
Surprisingly, Ballard could not locate either ship on the first expedition. He returned in July 1992 and immediately located Canberra. It now remained for researcher Rick Archbold to research, artist Marschall to paint and local Solomon Islands photographer Michael McCoy to add a few contemporary images. The result is a volume equal in quality to the Titanic and Bismarck books.
On board the mothership, Bert Warne, one of the survivors of the Canberra, was asked to take the controls. Warne manoeuvred the remote camera Scorpio over the hatch where he was stationed and narrowly escaped with his life. After fifty years, such an emotional "reunion" is hard to conceive.
Emotions arise again when viewing the fold-out triple-spread drawing of the Canberra as she lies on the seabed of Ironbottom Sound, perfectly upright and very much intact. "Is that what she would really look like," a reader exclaimed. Certainly, but due to lack of sunlight and underwater visibility, it is only the superb images of the artist that gives the whole picture.
Photographs and drawings of the Quincy are just as impressive, as are the six other Japanese and American ships.
Yet The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal is more than a picture-book of lost ships. It is also a reminder that the battles on Guadalcanal and in Ironbottom Sound were the turning point to the Pacific War. Australia's freedom lay in the balance. Had the U.S.Marines been defeated and Guadalcanal fallen back into the hands of the Japanese, Australia would surely have fallen. That this did not happen we must be eternally grateful to the likes of Admiral King, General Vandergrift, Colonel Edson - and of course Captain Frank Getting and his gallant crew of the Canberra.
Researcher Archbold writes with sufficient interest to ensure that the war history is very much a part of the book. Excellent paintings and  war photographs - many from the Japanese side of events - add to the interest, for not to know why these ships lie on the bottom is to drink wine and be ignorant of the grape. First-hand account descriptions of incredible courage and survival are very well written and give the book a very strong human touch.
But I must admit to being annoyed by a few aspects of the production. Try and find out at what depth the Canberra lies, or more important perhaps to us shallow water explorers, how deep is the destroyer Atlanta which appears to lie on a nearshore ridge off Honiara. And why was Canberra with the American fleet in the first place? The publishers will argue that this is not a "popular" book for the mass public, not a war history. Perhaps they are right.
And one other point. There is a general attitude in the interests of public respect not to show recognisable faces of the dead, whether they be friend or foe. The publishers have not respected this.  But to more pleasant matters, it is pleasing to see that the intrepid coastwatcher Martin Clemens and his guides, including the incredible Jacob Vousa are mentioned with the highest of respect.
Divers who have visited the Solomons will recognise some of the photographs; the Sherman tank for example, and one of the Bonegi wrecks. But this is predominantly a book on those ships well beyond the reach of  the humble "aqua-lung". This is certainly not a guide book of wrecks in the Solomon Islands. Neither the American destroyer John Penn, the Japanese submarine off Visalae, nor the Ruiniu wreck are mentioned.
 It is highly unlikely that I and those of my generation shall have the opportunity to see these ships for ourselves. But rest assured that within another half century, a trip to the Canberra will be on the Hotel Mendana's list of activities as common as a game of badminton. In the meantime, I shall be grateful to Ballard and his team, and The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal.
Reviewed by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
 

SEA SLUGS AND THEIR RELATIVES OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA by Fred E.Wells & Clayton W.Bryce
W.A.Museum
There is a dearth of material on nudibranchs. Neville Coleman put out a book(let) several years ago but is well out of print. (Update - Neville's book is back in print, and there are many books on nudibranchs now available). Now we have this "introduction to the subject" on sea slugs which includes the nudibranchs. The authors suggest that the classification of opisthobranchs the world over is in a mess, with very little information available. Identification and classification becomes difficult under such conditions. This work at least attempts to record the scientific work done by the Western Australian Museum. Pity it relates predominantly to western Australian shores, but many of the species mentioned are temperate water and will relate to their eastern cousins.
So what is a sea slug? Gastropod molluscs, (we call them snails), are the most common class. The largest group of sub-class opisthobranchs are the nudibranchs which have no shells at adult stage. Because of their exotic beauty, it is the nudibranchs that many divers relate to.  But there is exquisite beauty in the flatworms, the delicate Hydatinidae, the rare Cyerce nigricans of the Polybranchiidae family, and the ethereal Austraeolis ornata found from the Abrolhos through to New South Wales.
Sea Slugs and Their Relatives of  Western Australia opens with an attempt to define the animal in scientific terms. The natural history of the animal follows; its development and evolution, food, reproduction, and defence. A short chapter suggests where to find sea slugs and gives a warning on collecting (in Western Australia).
The predominant chapters are sectioned into the various species, commencing with a very useful "how to use this book" describing the classification of the animal from Kingdom to Species. Text relating to the individual families is brief, and to each species with its generally superb colour photograph even more succinct. As a guide it will at least assist the reader to define the family, and inn some instances pinpoint the exact species, but the authors do not claim this to be a definitive guide. Yet of immense assistance it certainly is.
Sea Slugs and Their Relatives maintains the high standard of book production set by the W.A.Museum, and compliments other volumes such as Anemonesfishes and their Host Anemones, and the two Marine Fishes books. Colour is used throughout, generally two photographs per page. The book is well recommended, even for eastern states readers.
Review by Peter Stone. Scuba Diver magazine.
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