Best Dives' Snorkeling Adventures

By Heather Brown

Best Dives' Snorkeling Adventures by Joyce & Jon Huber; PhotoGraphics Publishing, $15.95. For information call (800) 488-8040.

Vacation planners. Part of you thinks they're a bit on the button down side, and part of you wants to rush out and buy copies for all of your travel mates. We all have different vacation styles: the "take the day by storm" and the "see where the day takes you" approach being the primary anchors of this spectrum. But perhaps the best vacation method is where the 'twain shall meet. Best Dives seems to have found a comfortable niche in this middle ground-ensuring that you have plenty of options available on your vacation to guarantee some great adventures.

This particular planner, covering the Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos, and Florida, offers up a heaping portion of travel information. From detailing more than 200 dive sites, to beach and boat entries, to dolphin swims and Manatee tours, there is fun-o-plenty for everyone. Particularly helpful is the starfish rating system of snorkeling sites and the breakdown of snorkeler-friendly cruises.

Traditionally, I haven't been a big fan of planning out vacations, even going so far as to make one universal vacation plan: No plans. But I think I've just broken that plan, and it's got something to do with this book.

Return to Midway by Robert D. Ballard and Rick Archbold; National Geographic/Madison Press, $40.00 Deluxe Edition ($56.00 Canada). For information call (800) 437-5521.

Not only is this book an important literary contribution, it is also humanizing. Ballard accomplishes the remarkable feat of telling the story of the epic Battle of Midway-undoubtedly the battle that changed the course of the Pacific War-through the use of veteran accounts from both sides of the conflict. The account is unbiased, compelling, and well documented through 250 color and B&W photographs (many of which have never before been published), and complemented by full-color maps, charts and diagrams.

Ballard's book is centered around his 1998 expedition to photograph the sunken ships of the 1942 battle in the waters off Midway Island. The challenge was as great as the ships that came to rest at depths of more than three miles, deeper than even the Titanic or Bismarck. The expedition team had only 14 days in which to locate the American aircraft carrier Yorktown and the destroyer Hammann, and document their final resting places. The team also had ambitious plans to locate the four lost Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu and Soryu. What they discovered were haunting reminders of the 1942 Battle of Midway, the defiant souls of ships sunk before their time, and the stories of brave veterans who will never forget.