Deep-Sea Photos: Bringing Together Science, Art, and Love for the Ocean

[Here’s Julie Caruso’s report on her photo research work on Journey into the Deep.]

When a project called Journey Into The Deep hit my desk late last fall, I was excited to work on a book about all those weird creatures that scientists have been finding in the deep sea over the last decade. I had seen some of them featured on the New York Times, National Geographic, and NOAAs websites. I knew that the project would be interesting and that the photography would be stunning. My job was to take author Rebecca Johnson’s research and acquire and secure permission to publish the photos. Simple right? Well, it turns out, I didn’t really know what I was in for.

I didn’t expect to discover that the scientists at MBARI found a whale fall (i.e. whale carcass) on the sea floor of the abyssal plains covered with colonies of bone-eating zombie worms living on the decaying whale bones (photo below). The tops of the worms look like pink flowers, and their roots are covered in slime, earning the joyous nickname “boneJourney_40-41 eating snot flower.” I can’t help but imagine the awe the scientists must have felt when finding these worms living on whale bones thousands of feet below—beautiful, bizarre flower gardens down in the deep.

I didn’t really realize that for nearly every one of these photos, the discovery of the creatures they depict are representative of years of dedicated work by multiple scientists. As I worked to track down each photo one by one, I found myself corresponding with a diverse network of scientists and agencies and deep sea photographers from France, Japan, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, and many here is the United States. When I’d finally connect with the right people, they often expressed great affection for the newly discovered species. Many seemed like protective parents to these awesome and often endangered creatures so happy to share them, especially in a children’s book. Many of the scientists, such as Steve Haddock, Larry Madin, and Kevin Raskoff, have a masterful photographic eye that captures the true essence of these creatures, a culmination of science, art, and a love for the ocean.

It was not so simple when, due to my horrible French and her busy schedule, the media person ignored my dozens of emails and messages requesting permission to publish the Yeti Crab and blind shrimp photos (below). Thankfully a bilingual colleague saved that day at the eleventh hour and explained what we needed—in perfect French. Journey_50-51

Deadlines can be problematic when trying to reach globe-trotting ocean lovers. Here is an auto response that I received from masterful underwater photographer Michael Aw:

Fish is away.

Fish has a important meeting with sharks near the Pirates playground.

Anticipate to surface on about 3 April 2010. If urgent, send a FREE message to me at – use this number on Send to: 8816 2143 7599

May the warmth of the ocean be with you always…

Journey_14 I knew getting this photo (left) could take awhile….But some photos are worth waiting for.