The Sea Below My Toes

The Sea Below My Toes
Charlotte Guillain and Jo Empson

Part of the Look Closer series and following on from The Ground Beneath My Feet and others, and also presented concertina style, extending to 2.5 metres, author Charlotte Guillain and illustrator, Jo Empson, take readers on an investigation into what goes on beneath the sea.

With wet suits on, our journey moves down through the various zones beginning near the surface in the Sunlight Zone. Here there’s a forest of kelp, an algae that is the food source and safe habitat for lots of different creatures. Among the kelp sea otters can be found swimming, diving, and perhaps using rocks to break apart the shells of animals it intends eating. Shoals of mackerel too, move through the water at the surface, as do Stellar sea lions and ghostly moon jellyfish. Then a little lower the surface-breathing orca might be found, hunting for food.

The next layer is the Twilight Zone and it’s there that the ocean begins getting darker and more shadowy. There all manner of strange and wonderful marine creatures can be seen, perhaps even an almost transparent glass octopus or a barreleye fish with its see-through head. Some of the creatures at this level are bioluminescent including the lanternfish and one kind – the swell sharks – emit a green light, possibly to attract a mate. One of the oldest animals – the vampire squid – has been around deep in the ocean for about 300 million years. Amazing! You’ll likely notice tiny particles drifting downwards from above : called marine snow this shower comprises poo and decaying flora and fauna from the upper layers, and is food for many creatures.

At a depth of about one kilometre the Midnight Zone begins; there the water is almost freezing and sunlight cannot penetrate. This level is home to some weird creatures including gulper eels, about 200 species of anglerfish, and chimera (ratfish). Beware of atolla jellyfish with their long trailing tentacles that might sting should you get too close. Go down further and there is the Abysmal Zone: very few fish live so deep due to freezing temperatures and enormous water pressure from above, but you might come across snailfish or the Kaup’s arrow tooth eel and there are tube worms.

There too is melted rock – magma – that sends bubbles out through hypothermal vents on the seabed: it’s there that the tube worms find the bacteria they feed on. it’s also where underwater volcanoes form from hardened magma.

In addition to the wealth of animals and plants, we also find out about the technology used under the sea, from scuba breathing equipment to oil pipelines and deep sea submarines; and come to know about the impact humans have had on under the sea.

With its informative text, this is a book that readers will want to revisit many times as they continue to be fascinated and awed by this incredible subaquatic world. A world that Jo Empson portrays so superbly in her richly hued painted, stencilled, and collaged illustrations that are teeming with life.
Definitely one for home and primary classroom collections.

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