I picked this one up prior to my trip to Hawaii. Archipelago explores the remote Northwestern Islands of Hawaii, so not exactly where I'd be heading,...moreI picked this one up prior to my trip to Hawaii. Archipelago explores the remote Northwestern Islands of Hawaii, so not exactly where I'd be heading, but it was a photography book, about animals, and about Hawaii, so that's a pretty good combo for me.
This book is full of stunning photography. Hats off to Liittschwager and Middleton for their exceptional work. Most of the photos come from their studio setup, which included a tank, lighting, and a black or white background. While this doesn't show the species in its actual habitat, their reasoning for this type of aesthetic was so that they could highlight and glorify the animal itself. I have no problem with this. There were also photos of some animals and plants, especially the various bird species, in their native habitats. This was because it was often difficult to bring those species into a studio setup.
The book was also filled with a lot of text, which I didn't expect but was happy to see. Instead of just looking at the photography, it was really great to read about their work to shed more light on this area and its inhabitants. I also enjoyed reading about the work of the scientists that are on these islands. I think it's important that more people learn about places like these and the impact that our actions are having on the environments and the species. I can totally understand the pairing of these beautiful portraits with this text, to convey the immense loss we could be experiencing soon if things don't change.
I'm definitely looking forward to checking out more books from this pair. I also did some Googling and found some of Liittschwager's recent work, in particular, his One Cubic Foot project which is really freakin' cool. I just love discoveries like this and also, I can't believe I hadn't seen this earlier.
The end of the book is filled with mini species profiles, detailing facts about each of the animals/plants photographed. I've been trying to read through each of these, but it's hard to read more than a few at a time. Also, this book is not exactly portable, so I finally decided to just write this review as I try to go through the rest of the profiles.(less)
This book should be entitled, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cephalopods - which, if you have a thing for cephalopods, is never enough.
This...moreThis book should be entitled, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cephalopods - which, if you have a thing for cephalopods, is never enough.
This is the first book that I've gotten through Netgalley. When I saw this was available and that Richard Ellis had written it (I've been meaning forever to read some of his stuff), I knew I had to sign up to see if I was eligible. I'm so glad I did!
Though the book is titled based on the vampire squid (not quite a squid, not quite an octopus, but in its own category), it covers more than just this elusive, fascinating creature. It actually discusses cephalopods in general, focusing on octopuses (I still miss saying 'octopi') and squid.
I've always been fascinated by cephalopods, and octopuses in particular. They are extremely intelligent, especially for being invertebrates. If you search for 'octopus intelligence' in Google, you'll see all kinds of fascinating articles and web sites come up. If you are interested, I'd definitely recommend the Sy Montgomery piece on octopuses from Orion Magazine last year, Deep Intellect, which went viral (as viral as a magazine article can go, I guess) towards the end of 2011.
Ellis spends time discussing the history of the discovery of the vampire squid, its anatomy, evolution, and characteristics, while comparing and discussing other cephalopod species. The book also includes photography and illustrations. So if you get this book on the Kindle, try to view it on the computer or through some other tablet, so you don't miss the color pictures. The black and white of the Kindle don't do them justice and you miss a lot of details.
Though reading information about various cephalopods and their biology seems like a boring endeavor, somehow Ellis makes it seem really interesting. The book at times seems conversational, which also keeps your attention. He also sprinkles bits of dry, subtle humor throughout, which I really enjoyed.
For example: "Squid don't need a breath of air - they breathe water through their gills, like fishes - but several squid species can and do leave the water; mariners in all oceans occasionally find little squid on the decks after a night of sailing. The Humboldt squid (Dosidicus) has also been observed to get itself airborne; if a hundred-pound, ink-squirting, beak-snapping squid lands on your deck, you might have a bit of a problem."
One thing that this book helped me unlearn was the idea that sperm whales and giant squid have epic underwater battles in the deep ocean:
Scars from these teeth [chitinous teeth on the suckers of giant squid!] are often seen on the skin of sperm whales, which has led to the belief that titanic battles between these two giants take place in the deep, but it is now fairly certain that the only reason the squid left those scars was because it was struggling - often unsuccessfully - not to be eaten.
Another interesting thing I learned is that Jaron Lanier is a fan of cephalopods. I met Lanier once; he's an interesting person. So odd, how two seemingly unrelated things can come together.
There's no better way to sum up then this:
The dense, liquid kingdom of the octopus and the squid is another world altogether; a world denied to earth-bound mammals like us: we cannot breathe what they breathe, move the way they move, see the way they see, communicate the way they do. Beneath the surface of the oceans, there lives an alien culture, with multiple arms, multiple brains, and multiple ways of solving the problems of staying alive, more like the modus vivendi that one might encounter on one of Jupiter's watery moons. The naturalist Henry Beston was probably not talking about octopuses when he the following, but he might well have been: "In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time; fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."
Note: I received a copy of the ebook through Netgalley.(less)