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Deep Sea Explorations Come to Life in Extraordinary New Book

May 26, 2015

WHOI scientists Daniel Fornari and Timothy Shank and their colleagues Jeff Karson (Syracuse Univ.), Deborah Kelley (U. Washington) and Michael Perfit (U. Florida) bring their deep-sea explorations to the public with an extraordinary new book, “Discovering the Deep: A Photographic Atlas of the Sea-Floor and Ocean Crust. 

These world experts have compiled a comprehensive and lavishly illustrated book that portrays the geology, chemistry and biology of the most volcanically active feature on Earth – the mid-ocean ridge. In this stunning, full-color volume, this team of seagoing experts reveals the state of knowledge and recent discoveries of the longest mountain chain on Earth.

“The book gives everyone access to the mid-ocean ridge,” says co-author Dan Fornari, a WHOI marine geologist.  “It is a way to show people all the fantastic terrain, processes and features that exist on the deep-seafloor.”

Utilizing more than 500 stunning images the authors have created a book that will guide readers—students as well as lay audiences—through an in-depth presentation of the most remote and extreme environments on Earth.

Discovering the Deep was ten years in the making and utilizes spectacular full color photographs taken by the most advanced ocean exploration vehicles and technology and developing technologies used to explore this difficult to access and perpetually dark environment. Later chapters discuss the major geological components of Earth’s crust and the myriad environments along the global mid-ocean ridge – where oceanic crust is created. Readers are guided through the discoveries of chemosynthetic biological communities at hydrothermal vent sites, which revolutionized our ideas on the existence and origins of life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe.

“Many people are unaware of the dynamic diversity of novel life forms that thrive in the ocean and even more so in the deep ocean along the mid-ocean ridge,” says Shank. “Discovering the Deep shows readers not only what life dwells in some of the darkest and most remote places on Earth but more importantly some of their novel adaptations for surviving in these dark, typically toxic, high-pressure environs.”

Discovering the Deep is a fantastic reference for researchers, students of marine science and anyone interested in oceanography. A suite of online visual and teaching resources, including video clips and images suitable for lecture presentations combine with the book to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date view of the origin of oceanic crust, seafloor volcanism, hydrothermal venting, and biological processes at mid-ocean ridges. As a ‘coffee-table’ book for people interested in ocean and Earth science, or as an indispensable reference for researchers, teachers, and students of marine geoscience, this visually stunning resource is one that all oceanographers and ocean enthusiasts will want on their bookshelves.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit


Praise for “Discovering the Deep”:

Though its fashionable to say we know little about the mysteries of the deep, this book shows the vast wealth of understanding that pioneering researchers have already gleaned, with their probing sound waves, persistent robots and courageous submariners. This is the book I wish Id had on my eight deep ocean expeditions, to better understand the wonders I was gazing upon. A must-own for anyone in the ocean sciences, and for those simply curious about what lies down there in the most remote realm on our planet.
James Cameron, explorer and filmmaker

Discovering the Deep will open your eyes to the largest and most unexplored region on Earth the global Mid-Ocean Ridge. My own introduction to the Mid-Ocean Ridge began with the FAMOUS Expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in 1974, and this beautifully illustrated and comprehensive account shows how far we have come over the last 40 years in our understanding of this fundamental tectonic feature of the Earth and the technology required to investigate it. Not since Bruce Heezen and Charlie Hollisters classic book, The Face of the Deep, first published in 1971, have we seen such a comprehensive photographic atlas of what lies in the hidden depths of the sea.
Dr. Robert D. Ballard, President of the Ocean Exploration Trust

 “Discovering the Deep is an exquisite synthesis of the complexity of natural processes, the beauty of oft unseen environments, and the critical scientific discoveries of our recent past. To read this volume is to become an enlightened traveler into the fascinating realm of the seafloor and ocean crust. No student of the natural world should be without this magnificent atlas of our planets richly structured deep ocean environment.
Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator; former NASA astronaut


Jeffrey Karson
is Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. His research focuses on oceanic crust and analogous exposures on land. He has participated in numerous field projects and seafloor research cruises worldwide and is the author or co-author of over 150 publications on seafloor spreading and related phenomena.

Deborah Kelley is a Professor in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington. She has participated on over 30 blue water cruises routinely using robotic vehicles, and has been on over 50 Alvin deep-sea submersible dives, to depths of up to 12,000 feet. She is author or co-author of over 80 publications on submarine volcanoes and seafloor hotsprings.

Daniel Fornari is a marine geologist and Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has participated in over 100 research cruises and as many dives in deep-sea submersibles in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. He has over 100 publications that focus on his research on volcanic and hydrothermal processes along the global mid-ocean ridge.

Michael Perfit is Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Florida. He has participated on 30 oceanographic research cruises and taken more than 35 dives in deep-sea submersibles. He has authored or co-authored over 120 papers on volcanism and magma genesis at mid-ocean ridges, island arcs and seamounts.

Timothy Shank is an Associate Scientist in the Biology Department of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has participated in more than 57 scientific expeditions and is internationally recognized for his research to understand the ecological and evolutionary factors that affect the structure and evolution of diverse deep-sea communities and species.