proseandkahn (proseandkahn) wrote,

Non-Fiction Monday: Adventure Beneath the Sea: Living in an Underwater Science Station

by Kenneth Mallory. Photographs by Brian Skerry. 48 p. Boyds Mills Press, September, 2010.

The author, who formerly worked as an editor for The New England Aquarium and who has written books for young people, such as Swimming with the Hammerheads and Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano, got to become an official aquanaut (someone who spends 24 hours or more beneath the sea). After several days of on-land training, he spent six days observing and assisting oceanographers on the sea lab, Aquarius.

Since 1986, Aquarius has been the world's only underwater science lab. It is an 80-ton cylinder that lies 60' under water in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It is weighted down by a 120-ton baseplate and supported on the water's surface by the Life Support Buoy, which is a round, yellow tanker-like craft containing monitoring and communications machinery. 

The team caught various specimens of fish around the reef so that tags could be inserted internally, which would enable scientists on land to ping them and track their movements. The author also helped use a sort of underwater barcode scanner to find as many tagged fishes. He seemed to enjoy his stay underwater despite the cramped quarters and challenges, including toileting outside the vessel in order to avoid exploding toilets and a power outage. His only real complaint was the food, which was freeze dried and rather limited. 

Full-color photographs appear on nearly every page, but the book’s design, which features a 1.25” light blue swath along the bottom of each page as caption boxes, detract from the beauty of the photos and lend a cramped, cluttered look. The narrative is conversational and engaging, orange colored pages provide more detailed side-information, though the significance of the color orange is not apparent, nor is it particularly attractive.

A three-page glossary is provided at the end of the book, although the words that are in the glossary are not bolded in the text. There is also a page directing readers to books and websites for further information. All the websites were live and mostly sponsored by experts, although there was one that was created by students for Think Quest. There was also one page which seemed to aggregate "safe" information for kids, but also displays a fair number of ads. 

I am always on the lookout for books that depict scientists at work. This is partly because I have always loved science (I have a bachelor's of science degree in nursing) and partly because I love these sorts of informational books - photo heavy books showing the work of the scientists in action. So I was beyond thrilled when the science curriculum mandated study of careers in science. The seventh grade science teacher and I collaborated on a nice unit, in which we incorporate as many of these types of books as possible. 

Tags: 100+ book challenge, informational, non-fiction monday, scientists

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