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Book Review:                                                              

Coral Sea Reef Guide

(Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia)

Fishes, Corals, Crustacea, Snails, Cephalopods, Reptiles, Mammals

Bob Halstead

2000, 321pp. Hardbound, Suggested Retail $44.95, ISBN: 0-9700574-0-7

Sea Challengers, Natural History Books, etc.

Danville, CA


Bob Fenner  

A personal odyssey, Halstead discovers and unveils himself from a boy with an inherited fascination of the seas to the "old salt" of more than 7,000 dives, mainly in the area covered here.

What is found here is authoritative and whimsical (see p. 287 re the real account of the passing of the Dinosaurs… out-predated by Mantis Shrimp!) coverage of an enormous diversity of aquatic life in the Coral Sea, and fantastic photographic presentation of the same. Really spectacular technique, images, testifying to the many hours, types of habitats explored since 1973.

Do you intend to go on a dive adventure in this region? Have a passion for marine aquaristics, extending to biotopic presentation perhaps? Enjoy the thrill and challenge of underwater photography? This book is for you.

Many Plusses:

An internal subtitle reads: "Over 1,000 photographs of coral reef animals taken in their natural habitat". This volume is well-worth the price of acquisition for the image-work alone. Wonderfully reproduced here are a life-times worth of diving photography. People who have tried their hands at this form of gambling will be amazed at the breadth of technique, insight offered.

I really like the indexing format IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv (the copyright holder) uses in their books. The various fishes, invertebrate, et al. groups covered are laid out in color-grouped taxonomic order, with common and scientific names clearly stated. Another plus is the emboldened term Index and the annotated Bibliography in the back of the book.

A strength of the Coral Sea Reef Guide is its use of similar-appearing species being discussed and illustrated to aid in discerning to species. This is a very useful approach for divers, photographers, aquarists trying to tell who's who above and below water.

One last highlight I'll mention is the Aussie Slang section posted on p. 151. You won't have to look or sound like a tourist (hint: don't order Foster's when you want to crack a tinnie) when visiting the region with these handy terms to bandy about. Fair dinkum.

Few Suggestions For Improvement:

I do wish this and other books in the IKAN stable would offer species range descriptions covering more than the geography of the given work… rather than where the species can/may be found in the region covered by that book.

Though the stories (a page to a few telling something more about the author, diving, natural history) are listed in the back (p. 321), I would also place their descriptions, locations in the general Table of Contents. Here are some really neat insights into human nature, the joy of dive discovery. Shark feeding, Mantas, Cuddling Dugongs and Crocs, the aforementioned battle of Dinos vs. Stomatopods… Batfishes feeding at the edge of a dock… and many others.

There are a sprinkling of misspellings, word-usage changes I might make, but only one grievous error, p. 308, where the title should of course "Coral Spawning", rather than the repeated "The Goldbar Sand-Diver".

If anything I wish the book could have gone on and on… Unfortunately for a work covering such a vast area and many groups of organisms, some coverage is necessarily brief. Only one species of sponge, leather soft coral, acroporid…


Following in the tradition of several excellent guides (Helmut Debelius did the layout), this is a must-have and use book for all folks with an appreciation for the living seas. I use my copy for reference, and general encouragement when I can't be out diving myself. Thank you Bob Halstead.

Available from: http://www.seachallengers.com

Halstead's Coral Seas book review... at last David, please find the review of Bob.H's work here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corlseareefgd.htm Have sent off to FAMA in the States, das Aquarium in Germany... will send you copies as they run. Cheers, Bob Fenner

Re: Halsteads Coral Seas book review... at last Bob: Thanks so much. Great job. So glad you liked the book. <A winner David. Best of the genre in my opinion. Halsteads photography, writing, humour is outstanding, joy of discovery, the seas is palpable. A new "high" for Debelius in production. Will send you copies of the review as it runs to forward to them in turn. Bob Fenner> Dave
Sea Challengers

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