Mysteries of the Sea

By Heather Brown

Mysteries of the Sea by Doug Perrine; Publications International, Ltd.; For more information, 847-676-3470; www.amazon.com.

We are divers. From there it follows that we all have at least two things in common: We are explorers by, and of, nature; and we have been lucky enough to discover the only social circle in which relieving yourself in your wetsuit is common practice.

There is probably a third commonality: the experience of delighting in close encounters with creatures of the strangest kind. Take for example, the male jawfish who, after fertilizing his mate's eggs, proceeds to take them into his mouth for brooding. Or consider the false beauty of the colorful nudibranchs, which are inedible due to a noxious chemical compound; or the very modern mantis shrimp, which exhibits reversed traditional sex roles as the female aggressively pursues her male partner.

Kudos to Perrine who tells the story of the unique beauty of these sea creatures in his literary contribution to the dive community.

Diving and Snorkeling Cuba by Diana Williams; Lonely Planet Publications; $16.95 (USA). For more information, visit: www.lonelyplanet.com.

In one of the most surprising joint explorations in diving history, Fidel Castro and Jacques Cousteau combined forces to film the underwater culture of Cuba in their documentary Cuba: Waters of Destiny. Their inspiration was the island's 61 plus dive sites, a culture rich with friendly people and a vast terrain of wreck diving, reefs, walls, caves and valleys. Post-revolution, the island remains one of the most fascinating adventures a diver can encounter. Williams, no stranger to Cuban tourism, in conjunction with Lonely Planet, has unlocked the secrets to exploring the island with this second edition of Diving & Snorkeling Cuba.

This guide provides the best dive sites in each region, depth range, skill levels required, water conditions, common marine life, topside activities, dive services and travel tips. From the underwater valleys of Cuba's most popular dive site to advanced cave diving, this guide offers a quick
info-fix and history check for divers interested in gaining the most from their explorations.

What is Natural? Coral Reef Crisis by Jan Sapp; Oxford University Press; $30.00 (USA). For more information, visit: www.oup-usa.org

In our underwater landscape there exists a devastation on par with the destruction of the rain forests. In this book of action and education, Dr. Sapp objectively outlines an in-depth look at the ecological crisis surrounding the coral reefs.

Similar to the rain forest, the coral reefs represent one of the most bio-diverse environments in existence. In the 1960s, scientists and divers first encountered the voracious herds of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish infesting the reefs and causing their demise. The outbreaks of the Crown-of-Thorns have sparked scientific and government committees in search of answers.

The primary question being asked: Are the outbreaks natural or human-induced? One factor contends that the outbreaks are natural. However, many people maintain that it is a direct result of human activities. Dr. Jan Sapp does a brilliant job of presenting the fundamental complexities surrounding this issue and does it in a manner that will alert and educate the reader.