Pristine Seas by Enric Sala

Pristine seas

I cannot express sufficient gratitude to Louise Rhind-Tutt of for providing a review copy of this glorious hardback edition of ‘Pristine Seas – Journeys to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places’ by Enric Sala and with a foreword by Leonardo DiCaprio. It was published by National Geographic in hardback on September 22nd 2015.

I am obsessed by the sea, having been in the water with a manatee, swum with manta rays in the Maldives, sharks in the Galapagos and dolphins in the Caribbean and snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Consequently, I was beyond excited when I received this glorious book – so much so that I actually cried. I was meant to be doing many other things when the book arrived but it so captivated me that they were all set aside until I had consumed it avariciously in one go.

Reading the foreword, I had not previously had any idea of Leonardo DiCaprio’s own fascination with the sea, early ambitions to be a marine biologist or activist support which was interesting in itself, but, famous actors aside, it is Eric Sala’s journey, from a young boy idolising Jacques Cousteau to becoming an expert advising international organisations and governments on how to protect our oceans, that is the central pull of ‘Pristine Seas’.

The book is divided into geographical regions with brief scientific and factual details about each area, the most startling of which is that, at the time of writing, only 1% of the ocean was fully protected in no-take marine reserves.

The text is Enric Sala’s first person account of the places he has explored, gathering data and totally absorbing the reader in the descriptions of where he and his team have been and what they have seen. This is no clinical, dry non-fiction writing, but an exhilarating experience often written with prose approaching poetry. I wouldn’t have thought of juvenile masked boobies as being ‘like a bunch of teenagers gathering around a flashy new car that just arrived in town’, for example. It is also often desperately sad such as when we learn that Mediterranean red coral is all but extinct except for a pocket in Corsica’s Scandola Nature Reserve. However, there is much to be hopeful for too in Enric Sala’s writing. If American presidents are beginning to show an interest and to understand that oceans can repair themselves if we manage and protect them, then maybe there is a chance to retain and regenerate what we have before it is really too late.

Above all, the greatest delight in ‘Pristine Seas’ is the photography, almost all of which has been taken by the author. Photographs are breathtakingly beautiful and completely moving. The intimacy of mating turtles, the vivid orange of great star coral, the old-man appearance of walruses in Arctic ice or the dramatic landscapes of the Arctic are just some examples that make ‘Pristine Seas’ a book to be treasured. Anyone who has dived or snorkeled would be completely enthralled by seeing these images.

‘Pristine Seas’ is a book that I feel privileged to own and I would urge anyone with the slightest interest in nature and a love of the sea to read it too..

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