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A journey into the alien depths of the sea, and into our possible future, from a marine biologist known for "nature writing at its most engaging" (Sunday Express). A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway as revolutionary studies rewrite the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most A journey into the alien depths of the sea, and into our possible future, from a marine biologist known for "nature writing at its most engaging" (Sunday Express). A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway as revolutionary studies rewrite the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, its topography even more varied and extreme than its landmass counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary, interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more--good or bad, depending on how it is exploited. Currently, the fantastic creatures that live in the deep--many of them incandescent in a world without light--and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere, and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by nations and corporations; mining them could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing. Eloquently and passionately, the author of Spirals in Time and Eye of the Shoal brings to life the majesty and mystery of an alien realm that nonetheless sustains us, while urgently making clear the price we could pay if it is further disrupted. The Brilliant Abyss is at once a revelation and a clarion call to preserve this vast unseen world.


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A journey into the alien depths of the sea, and into our possible future, from a marine biologist known for "nature writing at its most engaging" (Sunday Express). A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway as revolutionary studies rewrite the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most A journey into the alien depths of the sea, and into our possible future, from a marine biologist known for "nature writing at its most engaging" (Sunday Express). A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway as revolutionary studies rewrite the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, its topography even more varied and extreme than its landmass counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary, interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more--good or bad, depending on how it is exploited. Currently, the fantastic creatures that live in the deep--many of them incandescent in a world without light--and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere, and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by nations and corporations; mining them could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing. Eloquently and passionately, the author of Spirals in Time and Eye of the Shoal brings to life the majesty and mystery of an alien realm that nonetheless sustains us, while urgently making clear the price we could pay if it is further disrupted. The Brilliant Abyss is at once a revelation and a clarion call to preserve this vast unseen world.

48 review for The Brilliant Abyss

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    My thanks to Grove Atlantic/Grove Atlantic Press, Helen Scales and Netgalley. In my honest opinion Grove Atlantic did a grave disservice to this author. This is not a book to be placed on Netgalley. This, in my eyes must be one hell of a book! Photographs and words. Anything less is tucked up! Truly! The words and meaning are there, but without the photo's? That's all on the publisher. I give this 4 stars because of how it is meant to be. The publishers? Those bastards should be ashamed of relinq My thanks to Grove Atlantic/Grove Atlantic Press, Helen Scales and Netgalley. In my honest opinion Grove Atlantic did a grave disservice to this author. This is not a book to be placed on Netgalley. This, in my eyes must be one hell of a book! Photographs and words. Anything less is tucked up! Truly! The words and meaning are there, but without the photo's? That's all on the publisher. I give this 4 stars because of how it is meant to be. The publishers? Those bastards should be ashamed of relinquishing a book so early. This would have been a great one!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🐠 The deep sea is a fascinating and terrifying place. With so much of it yet to be discovered and explored, there is an uncharted amount of knowledge we can gain from the rich and beautiful abyss. However, with exploration also comes exploitation as an environment that has taken millions of years to evolve can be wiped out in an instance by human exploitation. The Brilliant Abyss is written by Dr Helen Scales, a marine biologist who has a whole wealth ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🐠 The deep sea is a fascinating and terrifying place. With so much of it yet to be discovered and explored, there is an uncharted amount of knowledge we can gain from the rich and beautiful abyss. However, with exploration also comes exploitation as an environment that has taken millions of years to evolve can be wiped out in an instance by human exploitation. The Brilliant Abyss is written by Dr Helen Scales, a marine biologist who has a whole wealth of knowledge about these mysterious waters. She takes us through the luck of discovering new species and the unique way they have adapted to source food in the dark depths, through to the plethora of sponges and corals that make these waters their home. She also discusses the unique and delicate ecosystems of the deep and how essential they are to the global climate, by absorbing a lot of human generated warming to the planet, as well as the new potential medical finds. The deep, although still largely mysterious, is vastly important to our world. Although incredibly facinating and well researched, there's only so much interest I have in regards to sponges and protocells. The writing does lean towards the dry side at times, and gets very heavily into describing the intricate details of the abyss which got a bit tiresome after a while. I much preferred the chapters on the various creatures who live here, although I found I was constantly looking up what they looked like. I read the ARC so am unsure if the finished copy will have pictures but this would have greatly enhanced my reading experience. I also really liked the chapters examining the environmental impact humans are having on the deep. Microbial resistance via diluted human effluence is not something I've ever thought about, but its a terrifying reality. As is the realisation that we could, in the very near future, begin mining in the deep for mineral which could ultimately destroy millions of homes for creatures we know nothing about, and therefore their potential to help us. Greatly detailed read that suffers with a lack of pictures to really visualise this environment and too much information on sponges for me personally. However, altogether a fantastic read for anyone interested in the deep sea.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    In The Brilliant Abyss marine biologist Helen Scales vividly brings alive the extraordinary ecosystem of the deep ocean—a realm about which we know less than we do about the Moon—and shows how protecting rather than exploiting it will benefit mankind. It illuminates the majesty and marvels of the deep sea. The deep is the single biggest habitable space on the planet and home to fantastic creatures that have evolved unique ways to survive in extreme conditions of super-high pressure, little food In The Brilliant Abyss marine biologist Helen Scales vividly brings alive the extraordinary ecosystem of the deep ocean—a realm about which we know less than we do about the Moon—and shows how protecting rather than exploiting it will benefit mankind. It illuminates the majesty and marvels of the deep sea. The deep is the single biggest habitable space on the planet and home to fantastic creatures that have evolved unique ways to survive in extreme conditions of super-high pressure, little food or company, and permanent darkness. A golden era of deep-sea science is underway, as scientists uncover more of the hidden living wonders in this vast space. Deep studies are rewriting the very notion of life on earth and hinting at the potential for life elsewhere in the universe. At the same time, scientists are realising just how vital the deep is for the whole of life on earth and seeing how this realm is increasingly threatened by deepening human impacts. More urgently than ever before, the deep sea needs to be known about, celebrated and protected. At the bottom of the Mariana trench, the water is chillingly cold and dark, with a pressure so high it can dissolve shells and exoskeletons. It is the ocean’s deepest point, lying almost 11 kilometres beneath the surface, and it is home to a remarkable crustacean. This shrimp-like creature is called an amphipod and it has an ingenious adaptation to survive the conditions: it uses metallic compounds from mud to make itself a coat that prevents its exoskeleton from dissolving. With this protection, the scavenger can scour the trench for the food that builds up there, funnelled to the bottom by underwater avalanches. In The Brilliant Abyss, Helen Scales describes amphipods and the many other remarkable creatures that live in the deep sea. Weaving together the latest discoveries with well-known examples, she details the many fascinating adaptations that life has evolved to survive in a world unlike anything at Earth’s surface. There are vampire squid, for example, which hang around in the cold water waiting not for blood-filled prey, but to make edible snowballs out of the flurries of detritus that fall from the ocean surface that are known as marine snow. Then there are corals that started growing more than 4000 years ago and female octopuses that spend five years without food so they can brood a single clutch of eggs. And then there are the inconspicuous ultra-black fish that reflect hardly any light so that they blend into the background. After detailing this diverse underworld, the book takes a darker turn to explore the threats these creatures face from us. Deep-sea fishing is the most well-known example. It is “an industry that yields relatively trivial economic benefits but a fearsome capacity to vandalise our living planet”, writes Scales. An increasing threat lies in projects to mine the seabed to satisfy humanity’s growing demand for metals, particularly to use in the green tech needed for a low-carbon future. The choice is portrayed as one of green or blue, writes Scales, “the greening of global economies pitted against the health and integrity of the blue oceans”. But she says there is a third path: recycling the metals we have already dug up. These problems are out of sight and out of mind to many. Scales lists why we should care about them, including the deep’s key role in feeding the surface fisheries that many people rely on for food, as well as its mitigating impact on climate change. “In total, a third of humanity’s carbon emissions make their way into the ocean,” she writes, “saving the Earth from an unthinkably swift and catastrophic version of the climate crisis.” While this is pragmatic, I do wish we didn’t have to think up positive ways to exploit an environment in order to convince people that it is worth protecting. The Brilliant Abyss is an enjoyable and accessible introduction to the deep sea, told with a passion that I found infectious. The stories of life’s struggle for survival beneath the waves are both fascinating and compelling and Scales’ evocative descriptions immerses you in the deep blue before you know it. Extensively researched, beautifully detailed and written by an author who is unapologetically passionate and forthright about this subject, I simply didn't want it to end. Packed full of interesting information and apt examples to illustrate her points, this is a must-read for those who care about the health of our oceans and ocean-dwellers. Overall, though, Scales brings to life this important part of our planet. What happens there is something we should all be concerned about. As Scales puts it: “The deep, quite simply, makes this planet habitable.” Unreservedly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    The Inquisitive Biologist

    An unforgettable trip into the depths of the ocean, The Brilliant Abyss is a rousing rallying cry for the preservation of the deep sea. See my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2021... An unforgettable trip into the depths of the ocean, The Brilliant Abyss is a rousing rallying cry for the preservation of the deep sea. See my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2021...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chantal Lyons

    I've read a lot of natural history/pop science books about the oceans over the last few years, so it's getting harder to impress me. While it has its moments, 'The Brilliant Abyss' didn't seize my imagination as previous reads have. For starters, the choice in narrative structure threw me off. We begin by seeing right through the author's eyes as she embarks on a research trip in the Gulf of Mexico to explore the deeps. It's a compelling introduction, but soon we disconnect completely from the au I've read a lot of natural history/pop science books about the oceans over the last few years, so it's getting harder to impress me. While it has its moments, 'The Brilliant Abyss' didn't seize my imagination as previous reads have. For starters, the choice in narrative structure threw me off. We begin by seeing right through the author's eyes as she embarks on a research trip in the Gulf of Mexico to explore the deeps. It's a compelling introduction, but soon we disconnect completely from the author's experience as she delivers what feels like a series of undergraduate-level lectures on various denizens of the depths, focusing particularly on - dare I say - less charismatic species such as sponges and sea cucumbers. We do occasionally pop back to see what the author's getting up to onboard her vessel, but the disconnect remains; I still don't understand the purpose of the interludes in the Gulf because no actual science or exploration takes place (instead we're shown the control room where pilots are remotely operating the submersible). I was so curious to find out more about the author herself - what sparked her fascination with the deep sea, what journeys has her previous research taken her on? As it is, it feels like the book could have been written by a journalist relying on internet research. The book gets a lot less dry once Scales moves onto the bigger ecosystem picture, and the last third of the book is an impassioned plea to protect the deep seas against human avarice. That said, I dismayed by her overt bias against the Marine Stewardship Council (full disclosure: I work for them). As an example, she mentions that the MSC was called up in front of the Environmental Audit Committee in 2019; but she chooses not to mention that the committee's conclusions about the MSC were highly positive. (With thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for a copy of this ebook, in exchange for an honest review)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Collins

    So many words could be used to describe The Brilliant Abyss: eye-opening, curiosity sparking, mind-blowing, fascinating...and Scales writes so engagingly and with such insight and passion, that I now associate all of these words with the deep ocean. I was pleased that Scales did not shy away from describing the countless negative effects which humans have bombarded the deep ocean with, and the consequences of our current actions - human impact on the ocean is integral to the ocean, sadly, and Sc So many words could be used to describe The Brilliant Abyss: eye-opening, curiosity sparking, mind-blowing, fascinating...and Scales writes so engagingly and with such insight and passion, that I now associate all of these words with the deep ocean. I was pleased that Scales did not shy away from describing the countless negative effects which humans have bombarded the deep ocean with, and the consequences of our current actions - human impact on the ocean is integral to the ocean, sadly, and Scales encourages us to do what we can to mitigate this. Astounding facts are every few pages; for example, a marble thrown overboard would take SIX HOURS to reach the sea bed, and life has been found in toxic brine pools which we thought uninhabitable. I finished this book - which is neither a doorstop nor a pamphlet - feeling like I had so much more to learn, and wanting to continue reading more about this fascinating subject.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Thanks to Grove Atlantic/Grove Atlantic Press, Helen Scales, and Netgalley for providing this book to me for review. "The deep sea will never run out of things for us to dream about. Places will remain unseen and unvisited, fleeting moments will be missed, and nimble creatures, whose existence nobody can guess, will keep slipping out of sight. We need to do all we can to keep it that way." I had next to no knowledge of the sea, the creatures that live in it, or how one could profit from its resour Thanks to Grove Atlantic/Grove Atlantic Press, Helen Scales, and Netgalley for providing this book to me for review. "The deep sea will never run out of things for us to dream about. Places will remain unseen and unvisited, fleeting moments will be missed, and nimble creatures, whose existence nobody can guess, will keep slipping out of sight. We need to do all we can to keep it that way." I had next to no knowledge of the sea, the creatures that live in it, or how one could profit from its resources before I began reading this book (in part because deep water terrifies me and the creatures that live in it do the same). Scales does a remarkable job at providing an overview of the topography of the oceans, all of the creatures that live in them, the scientific uses and significance of pretty much anything found in the ocean, and how for-profit deep-sea exploration could very well ruin a very vital ecosystem. For the most part, the book is a quick read with each point moving quickly but you can tell where Scales may have become hung up on describing and redescribing some of the more science-y details about sponges and the mechanics of equipment used for exploration and exploitation. This may just be due to this title being aimed at a reader who is more knowledgeable or concerned with those details. Scales does do an exceptional job at describing the appearance of topographies and organisms, especially since the Netgalley copy doesn't include any photos or other illustrations. I would recommend telling any future readers to get ready to spend a lot of time looking up the organisms and locations mentioned just to get an even better appreciation for the topic. Ultimately, this book was a four-star read since it kept my interest all the way through but dragged in some places and could definitely have benefitted from illustrations or in-text links.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    What a stellar book, utterly breathtaking! Talk about a fascinating topic...I feel smarter after reading this and can't stop talking about it. The fact that the moon is more studied and known than this portion of the ocean is mind blowing but it makes sense. So many things stand out in my mind but one in particular is the marble analogy wherein the author asks readers to picture a marble dropping from a boat through the layers, assuming it doesn't get hung up en route, and describing what each l What a stellar book, utterly breathtaking! Talk about a fascinating topic...I feel smarter after reading this and can't stop talking about it. The fact that the moon is more studied and known than this portion of the ocean is mind blowing but it makes sense. So many things stand out in my mind but one in particular is the marble analogy wherein the author asks readers to picture a marble dropping from a boat through the layers, assuming it doesn't get hung up en route, and describing what each layer contains and how long the marble takes to fall through each. Brilliant. Easy to visualize. Unforgettable. The author poses many questions and important points which made me really stop and think such as the ocean providing antibiotics, feeding us, mining and what the future looks like. I didn't realize that the sun doesn't penetrate beyond 3,300 feet which means much of the earth doesn't ever see it! Though I knew about underwater mountains I didn't realize there are abyssal plains as well. So many new creature discoveries as well. Makes me wonder how many remain undiscovered!? The descriptions of the creatures including snagged starfish, scale worms, purple "sock animals", Pompeii worm, Yeti crabs, Mariana snailfish, slimehead, and those which hunt with searchlights and have illuminated skin, I learned about chimneys, hydrothermal vents, silver pools and drowning livestock from ships. The sheer quantity of information here is stunning! The description at the end of the author sitting at her little stone house resonates with me as I yearn for my sweet little stone house near the Adriatic. If this book had photographs it would be a very, very easy 5 star for me, no question. My sincere thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for allowing me the pleasure of reading this riveting and life changing book...I learned a LOT! When swimming in the Adriatic I will be sure to scrutinize each creature more than ever before.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sora May

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Taylor

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kitri Miller

  13. 4 out of 5

    Breana

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Court

  15. 4 out of 5

    Keegan

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Lambert

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Baird

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Lanches

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick Bryant

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gary Barnes

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  22. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Bugarsky

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gaute Seljestad

  24. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Celia Kim

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carl Santiago

  28. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chantal Rogers

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Lamb

  31. 4 out of 5

    Dani Lensen

  32. 5 out of 5

    Heli Miranda ahumada

  33. 5 out of 5

    Brendanbrit .

  34. 4 out of 5

    Ярослава

  35. 5 out of 5

    Pearlie

  36. 4 out of 5

    Santino Prinzi

  37. 5 out of 5

    Tilly

  38. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  39. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  40. 4 out of 5

    Pearlie

  41. 5 out of 5

    Gina Goodman

  42. 5 out of 5

    Rishi

  43. 4 out of 5

    Vikki

  44. 4 out of 5

    Ruzana Glaeser

  45. 5 out of 5

    Anneke van Dijken

  46. 5 out of 5

    Emily Stivers

  47. 5 out of 5

    Marah Sepia

  48. 4 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

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