Review: “The Brilliant Abyss” Illuminates Crucial and Little Understood Science of the Deep


In other words, sea snow is just one player in a vast predation network that works to store carbon deep in the sea, which the article calls “particle injector pumps.” But if you’ve seen the word “lanternfish” recently, it’s probably not because of its role in preserving the earth’s carbon footprint but because, in 2017, “Norway issued forty-six new Fishing licenses for the Twilight Zone ”, with the intended result not being to feed anyone, but to convert the lanternfish population into lucrative“ nutraceuticals ”that go into omega-3 supplements, and then“ yogurt and margarine; and the fish oil pills that more and more people are taking despite the lack of evidence that they are all heart-healthy. Through these attempts at self-healing, we are destroying a force that rivals gravity itself in regulating climate.


Leaning over the bewildering scale of disaster unfolding in deep seas, Scales alternates between marine stories of the extremely small, like the species of red worm that feasts exclusively on the skeletons of dead whales that drift towards the sea. low across the ocean, and the enormous, as when she explains that the fact that the oceans move is responsible for the dispersion of heat from the sun at the equator. The currents bring heat northward, working in a complex system called the global conveyor belt, which is based on the behavior of the deep seabed. As melting glaciers desalinate the depths of the sea, Scales writes, the chance that the Atlantic conveyor belt will temporarily shut down “in the next hundred years” is about one in six.

The fact that the oceans are getting warmer and warmer is such an important fact about climate change that it’s easy to overlook the details, especially because some of them present baffling ethical puzzles. For example, there is a compound called halichondrin B which comes from sponges that grow on the seabed in Japan; “more than a ton of sponge was needed to produce a droplet of half a gram.” Today, Scales notes, it is still the only drug on the market that can prolong the life of patients with advanced metastatic breast cancer.

With issues so disorienting, it is perhaps not surprising that we prefer to live with a fictitious vision of the seabed. Apparently the reason Avatar 2 took so long to do is that James Cameron has been busy inventing new technology for using CGI in underwater scenes. His first big success was also an underwater film: In The abyss (1989), he introduced Ed Harris to aliens underwater. Not to mention the time Cameron flew to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, seven miles below the surface of the Pacific, in 2012, and made a movie about it, 3D Underwater Challenge– a stunt that Scales compares to billionaires who pay to travel to space. Cameron is a megalomaniacal sight of the deep sea, and it’s a strangely clean sight, with little of the teeming, decaying, and mysterious life that Scales – or Rachel Carson – saw.


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