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The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss Hardcover – March 15, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Before the recent development of submersibles capable of exploring the ocean more than six miles down, oceanographers gleaned most of what they knew about the denizens of the deep from dead fish in trawler nets. One such creature first captured in 1901, the "vampire squid from hell," turned out to be a living fossil whose origins date back more than 200 million years. Now known to be quite benign, so are most of the creatures depicted in this stunning collection of more than 160 color photos—even the Pacific viperfish, with fangs so long it can't close its mouth, and the spookfish, with its enormous telescopic eyes. Species from as far down as four and a half miles are depicted in exquisite detail; most are mere centimeters long, though the giant squid, a timid creature despite its size, grows to almost 60 feet. Fifteen short, jargon-free essays assembled by editor and French journalist Nouvian—who became enthralled with the deep after visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium—flesh out the fantastical images with scientific fact. They dismiss the myth of deep sea monsters and describe the amazing persistence of life around hydrothermal vents and methane flues; a thoughtful glossary adds to this impressive book's popular appeal. (Apr. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“[A] stunning collection of more than 160 color photos. . . . Species from as far down as four and a half miles are depicted in exquisite detail; most are mere centimeters long, though the giant squid, a timid creature despite its size, grows to almost 60 feet. Fifteen short, jargon-free essays assembled by editor and French journalist  Nouvian . . . flesh out the fantastical images with scientific fact. They dismiss the myth of deep sea monsters and describe the amazing persistence of life around hydrothermal vents and methane flues; a thoughtful glossary adds to this impressive book's popular appeal.”

(Publishers Weekly)

"In the first century A.D., Pliny the Elder—in a bout of oceanic hubris—pronounced that there were precisely 176 species of marine fauna and that, 'by Hercules, in the ocean . . . nothing exists which is unknown for us.' Would that we could summon Pliny from his celestial Hall of Shame and thwack him over the head with Claire Nouvian's The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss. For this book contains 220 color plates of life-forms whose existence was unknown not merely to Pliny but to anyone at all until the modern development of submersibles capable of plunging to depths that are the inverse of a Mount Everest. Only 5% of the seafloor has been mapped, and scientists estimate that there are between 10 million and 30 million species in the 'vasty deep' yet to be found by man. The ones that we do know—and many of those are pictured in this book—are gloriously bizarre critters that appear to have been fashioned by Salvador Dali. They bear pulse-quickening names that are as if from some weird children's fable: naked sea butterflies, spookfish, pigbutt worms, cutthroat eels, helmet jellies, glasshead grenadiers and yeti crabs. Hued in pink, red, blue, orange, white and purple, these deep-sea denizens can seem repulsive, with their fangs and hooks and hooded eyes. Many of them, however, are balletic little beauties—bioluminescent, geometrical designs that hum with a life beyond our reach, but not, anymore, beyond our imagination. "

(Tunku Varadarajan Wall Street Journal 2007-03-10)

"Many beautiful coffee-table books celebrate the world's oceans...but few, if any, are dedicated to the life of the ocean's deeps, which most of us will never see otherwise. Readers will pick up science journalist Nouvian's book for its stunning, 200-plus full-page color photographs of dumbo octopi, vampire squid, frilled sharks, and hydrothermal vent worms; they will hang on to it for the well-written, extremely informative text. Extensive captions speak to each creature's lifestyle and habitat, while short guest chapters by eminent scientists and Nouvian's additional text provide background information on the deep ocean and its exploration."

(Library Journal)

"A luminous voyage to the bottom of the sea. . . . Each of the 200-odd photographs in this book is in color. Bejeweled creatures—squid, comb jellies, octopuses, and tube worms—leap off the black pages in such a luminescent rainbow that you can't help but realize that the 'blackness' of the depths is a misnomer. In many case, photographs of these organisms appear in this book for the first time anywhere. . . . Such intimate photographs are surely the book's triumph. But an articulate and informative commentary accompanies them."

(Richard Ellis Discover 2007-04-01)

"Outstanding images of deep-sea life drape the pages of The Deep. Inevitably these include the fish that can, in the words of deep-sea pioneer William Beebe, 'outdragon' any figment of human imagination. Equally welcome is the showing this book gives to invertebrates. My favourite is the giant isopod Bathynomus, whose alien face looms out at us. This visual feast is accompanied by equally evocative essays from deep-sea biologists: Cindy Van Dover, director of Duke University's marine lab in North Carolina, narrates a history of deep-sea exploration, for example, while Craig Young, director of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, describes the scale of the ocean floor. Words and images combine to convey what we know—and how much we don't know—about life in our planet's largest habitat."
(Jon Copley New Scientist 2007-04-27)

"This superbly designed large-format book of photographs of deep-sea creatures, eloquently edited by a French journalist and film director, with brief and highly readable contributions from sixteen leading scientific explorers of the deep, is eye-poppingly magnificent. So much so that it provokes gasps of amazement and awe at the complexity, beauty and uniqueness of life in the abyss. One frequently finds oneself wondering whether the weird creatures floating in the darkness like visiting space aliens can really exist—except in the minds of special-effects artists. . . . Easily in the same visual league as the BBC's series Planet Earth, The Deep provides a lot more knowledge than the television series for those who want it, without at any point overwhelming the non-biologist reader. . . .The Deep deserves to become a modern classic of natural history."
(Andrew Robinson Literary Review 2007-05-01)

"Nouvian's The Deep features more than 200 color portraits of the planet's least-known creatures: sparkling pink octopi like floating lanterns; iridescent squid with corkscrew tails; predatory fish with hooded eyes and translucent teeth looming in the darkness. Some of these are the first-ever photographs of certain organisms. At least eight of the pictures feature animals so unknown that Nouvian's captions list them as 'unidentified.' To page through her book is to feel as if you are peering at life on another planet: It is a vision of the deep as a vast, balletic swarm of nature's inventiveness."

(Anthony Doerr Boston Globe 2007-05-20)

“The book is composed of giant (frequently larger-than-life-size) photographs of deep-sea creatures: the gelatinous Pandea rubra, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a police strobe light; the seed-like larvae of the Spantagoid heart urchin, whose appendages stretch at near-perfect right angles; glass octopi like living x-rays, frilled sharks, furry lobsters. In all, nearly 200 creatures, some of which have never been photographed before, many of which are unknown species, all of which seem unreal, incomprehensible even. Nouvian divides the organisms roughly in half—‘Life at the Bottom’ is one cluster, ‘Life in the Water Column’ another—and intersperses the photos with short essays written by marine biologists from around the world. These pieces cover everything from the history of deep-sea exploration to the truth about sea monsters to the science behind bioluminescence (‘without any doubt the most widely used mode of communication on the planet’) and, thankfully, are both excellently written and spare. They provide background without ever detracting from the point—the creatures themselves. Early on, Nouvian includes a telling quote by deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard (of Titanic-discovery fame): ‘At a time when most think of outer space as the final frontier, we must remember that a great deal of unfinished business remains here on Earth.’ The Deep highlights just how accurate that outlook is.”

(Abby Seiff Popular Science blog 2007-05-16)

"Bizarre species from as far down as four and half miles are shown in remarkable detail, their tentacles lashing, eyes bulging, lights flashing. The eerie translucence of many of the gelatinous creatures seems to defy common sense. They seem to be living water. On page after page, it is as if aliens had descended from another world to amaze and delight. A small octopus looks like a child’s squeeze toy. A seadevil looks like something out of a bad dream. A Ping-Pong tree sponge rivals artwork that might be seen in an upscale gallery. Interspersed among 220 color photographs are essays by some of the world’s top experts on deep-sea life that reflect on what lies beneath."
(William Broad New York Times 2007-05-22)

"Each squid, jellyfish, and deepsea worm is posed in all its baroque extravagance against a stark black background, occupying a full or double-page spread. The effect is startling, like a series of underwater mug shots crafted by Fabergé. Ms. Nouvian ... has enlisted 15 scientists from such research institutes as the Smithsonian, Woods Hole, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium itself, to contribute brief but lively reports on everything from 'sharks of the dark' to methane seeps and hydrothermal vents. There is a handy depth chart keyed to each image, a glossary, a page of interesting oceanic statistics, and a good bibliography.Good as the texts and aids are, the images carry the book; they are simply spectacular."

(Eric Ormsby New York Sun 2007-05-23)

"No photo collection could replicate a visit to their realm or the breadth of the diversity to be found there, but Claire Nouvian's The Deep, with more than 200 large-format photos, comes closer than any previous book....The Deep offers spectacular views of such marvels as bioluminescent dragonfishes and a googly-eyed glass squid. Other animals have less colourful names, but are exquisitely beautiful. It is difficult to imagine anyone who would not be enchanted by the creatures on display. . . . The deep's creatures are beautiful, bizarre and at times even grotesque enough to capture attention without any fashion photography. This wealth of photos just needed to be made available; in doing so, Nouvian has done both the field and the public a service."

(Mark Schrope Nature 2007-06-21)

"Here is a book that does justice to this amazing environment and its inhabitants. The text is written by oceanographers from marine institutions across the globe. They have supplied short, readable introductions to their areas of interest, packed with bites of breathtaking information. Stunning underwater photographs are given full pages or spreads in this large-format hardback book to reveal all their glorious detail—each caption clearly stating the animals' actual size to put them into context. Another helpful feature is the scale on the bookflap that matches up to a mark on each photo, showing the maximum depth at which each species is found."

(BBC Wildlife Magazine 2007-06-01)

"'Don't give away that book!' so exclaimed my 12-year-old daughter. . . . Since arriving, The Deep has been sitting on my coffee table, thumbed through by kifs and adults alike. I sat down and read it cover to cover."
(Ellen Kappel Oceanography)

"The Deep demonstrate that some of the weirdest, most wonderful creatures may well remain undiscovered. For the past 25 years, one new deep-sea species — from the neon-colored to the nearly invisible — has been found each week. Estimates of those remaining undiscovered range from 10 million to 30 million. By the time all those creatures are cataloged, they may well have beggared the capacity of human language to describe them. The Deep already showcases a circus menagerie that includes the ping pong tree sponge, the fangtooth, the red paper lantern medusa, the glowing sucker octopus, the vampire squid — for whom the expression "bat out of hell" would seem to have been invented— and the pigbutt worm ("a pair of flying buttocks"). Hailed when it was released in March, The Deep features 160 photos and 15 essays by deep-sea biologists. The Earth — or at least the wildly extravagant oceans that constitute our largest ecosystem — can still be wondrous strange, stranger than anything science fiction has imagined."
(Jerome Weeks NPR.org 2007-11-28)

“Claire Nouvian's wondrous book The Deep contains the finest collection of photographs of the denizens of the deep that I know of."
(Tim Flannery New York Review of Books 2007-12-20)

"The brilliant photography conveys the mix of beauty, mystery, and nightmare in these creatures . . . all backed up with excellent essays from the world's top marine biologists."
(Fergus Collins BBC Focus Magazine)

"Did you know that only about 5 percent of the deep-sea floor has been mapped in any detail? Absolutely astonishing photos of the species living in those ground-floor apartments. Gives new meaning to the phrase 'I'm not going there.'"
(Philadelphia Inquirer 2007-12-16)

"An excellent resource for high school science teachers (or English teachers looking for informative non-fiction reading material)."
(American Educator 2008-01-01)

"This is the volume that many of us who have spent our lives exploring the deep sea have longed to have adorn our coffee table. The images throughout this large, pictorial book are simply breathtaking. They represent a collection of some of the finest images ever taken in the depths of the ocean by researchers throughout the world ... The book inspires awe and is worthy of occupying a special place in anyone’s home or office."

(Richard Lutz Quarterly Review of Biology 2007-09-01)

"In The Deep, journalist Claire Nouvian has assembled a portrait gallery of these exotic creatures, accompanied by eloquent essays by more than a dozen ocean scientists. The denizens of the deep are so bizarre they seem to have been sculpted by Salvador Dalí on acid. Fish with skeletal heads and protruding fangs glower into the camera, some with lower teeth so long that a reckless bite could take out their own eyeballs. Smooth-skinned octopuses float in the blackness, resembling embryos attached to bundles of wormlike tentacles. Other creatures look like ball-point pens, paper lanterns, baby’s buttocks, and Pokémon cartoon figures, while the spooky vampire squid reminded me of a bat’s head grafted onto the webbed foot of a duck."
(Laurence A. Marshall Natural History 2007-12-31)

"Astounding. . . The Deep is far more than an exploration of these strange ecosystems. It is a remarkable visual tour through the entire deep ocean. . . . The images astonish. Set against the inky black of the deep, a glowing sucker octopus Stauroteuthis syrtensis leaps from the page, a pink ballerina complete with a fairy-light display. A gelatinous siphonophore, a type of colonial jellyfish, releases a dazzling lightshow of bioluminescence from its toxic tentacles. Tiburonia granrojo, known to the submersible pilots as “big red”, an incongruous, metre-wide velvet mushroom-like jelly hangs in the black, dimensionless deep."
(Adrian Glover Times Literary Supplement 2008-03-19)

"Amazing photographs and essays by scientists introduce the strange, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying deep-sea creatures that live in the largest, most mysterious ecosystem on the planet."—Best Books for Yound Adults,
Young Adult Library Services Association
(Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Yound Adults)

"This book presents creatures living at mid-sea to ocean deep in all their gelatinous glory of color, lights, tendrils, and other adaptive appendages. More than a memory book of images of the deep, The Deep introduces the reader to research questions driving expert oceanographic researchers to exotic deep-sea locations. . . . A wonderful resource for almost any library, nature lover, and oceanographer, this book is a classic in the making."
(Northeastern Naturalist 2007-12-01)

"No amount of explanation can do justice to thes images. Go down to your local bookstore and leaf through a copy to get the full effect. Once you've been antranced by the bizarre and wonderful creatures you will be eager to learn about them and their world. This is the perfect gift for anyone from a serious undersea enthusiast to someone who likes to look at pictures of wacky things."
(MSNBC/The Today Show)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First edition (March 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226595668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226595665
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.1 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Thanks to all who have made such enthusiastic comments about the book, I am very touched but I want to make a specific point about the computer-generated images : it was indeed a mistake in the first print run not to mention that they were "fake" images (there are only 5 of such out of 220 pictures) but they are absolutely mentioned as such in the credits at the end. Also, in the second printrun, the correction was thoroughly integrated so a lot of you who are now buying the book will not be concerned by this comment because the images are now identified as computer-generated.

I'm sorry about this error but it was fixed as soon as we realized it so actually only a few copies are concerned, I hope it won't stop anyone from enjoying the rest of the images made by extremely dedicated and talented researchers.

Best, Claire Nouvian
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Format: Hardcover
Growing up I had tropical (fresh-water) fishtanks. When I got older, I graduated to marine (salt water) tanks. I was, and am, facinated by the creatures that live there, especially "reef" tanks that house the stranger life forms like invertebrates and corals. I eventually took up diving, mostly because it was the only way I could be "inside" my tanks.

"The Deep" is an astonishingly GORGEOUS compilation of the most incredible, other-worldly creatures that inhabit the oceans. THIS is what thrilled me, and still does, about underwater life: it is the closest you will ever get to being on an entirely different planet!
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Format: Hardcover

Where would you find these?

(1) Gorgon's head
(2) Fangtooth
(3) Pigbutt worm
(4) Black medusa
(5) Radiolarians

Possible answers: In outer space? On the Earth's surface? In a horror movie? On a farm? In an electronics store?

Correct answer: these are the names of creatures found in the abyss. (Technically, the abyss is a particular zone of the oceans extending 3000 to 6000 meters in depth. This term is also used to designate the deep oceans overall.)

You will find photographs of the five creatures indicated above and the pictures of many more deep ocean creatures in this stunningly beautiful book by Claire Nouvian, a journalist, producer, and film director who has travelled the world for more than a decade, filming wildlife for French and international television.

The book has photographs with captions (its main feature) interweaved with text. The contents of the book is divided into two parts:

(I) Life in the water column (meaning life in the water above the seafloor)
(II) Life at the bottom (meaning life on the seafloor or just above it).

The colour photographs are, in a word--astonishing. All the creatures (that look like they're not of this planet) imaged are marvels of evolution and adaptation. Rare and unidentified abyss-dwellers are even photographed.

Each photograph has a caption made up of several pieces of information: (1) the abyss-dweller's scientific name (2) its descriptive name (not all photographs have this) (3) its size (4) the depth at which it's found and (5) known information about the creature.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is great in two ways. The visuals and the idea that you are even looking at these creatures which until recently have been hidden from the world.

There should be no complaints about this book. One, the computer generated images are probably put together by massive information collected on each one of these creatures. It's not something that was "made up" or "fake". So yea, you are seeing something computer generated but you are at least seeing a true depiction of it.

I think its a great book. I love the photography and the layout of it. I am afraid of the water for these specific reasons, because there is much that we do not know about our oceans. And this just brings us a bit closer to understanding some of the creatures that inhabit it.

Great Book.
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Format: Hardcover
We say "Out of sight, out of mind" and to our cost we believe it and live it. The creatures of the deep sea could have been nothing but out of sight for centuries; even when we had started to think about the life deep in the oceans, the scientific dictum in the nineteenth century was that in the depths there was no light, no oxygen, and no foodstuffs, so there was no life. Deep-sea trawling seemed to bring up tentative evidence that maybe there were some creatures that eked out a living down there, but it was not until the twentieth century that bathyspheres and other submersibles got an idea of just how lively the depths were. They are still out of sight for most of us, but a gorgeous picture book can cure that: _The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss_ (University of Chicago Press) by Claire Nouvian has astonishing portraits of alien creatures that would seem to spring from the minds of Hollywood special effects animators. (One of them pictured here is indeed supposed to be the inspiration for the monster in _Alien_.) We are familiar in our own terrestrial realm of how evolution has crammed plant and animal life into every available niche; it has happened as well in the seas, and it has happened all the way down.

Nouvian is a journalist and film director, and for this volume has gotten short explanatory chapters from biologists who are experts in, say, hydrothermal vents or the polar depths. These stand as good explanations for the photographs, which in this big, glossy book are the real show. There are nightmare creatures here, like the black-devil anglerfish, with needle-like teeth in a gaping, frowning mouth and flabby and wrinkled skin, with a little lighted antenna above her head.
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