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19 October 2017 THE BRILLIANT DEEP: REBUILDING THE WORLD’S CORAL REEFS: THE STORY OF KEN NEDIMYER AND THE CORAL RESTORATION FOUNDATION by Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe, ill., Chronicle, April 2018, 48p., ISBN: 978-1-4521-3550-8


“My happy home, my happy home”

-- Joanne Rand “I Love It” (1980)


“What would happen if someone grew a coral colony and then tried to plant it on a dying reef? Would it grow? Could that colony help rebuild the reefs Ken loved? Could a reef come back to life?

Ken made plans to go to the reef, where he’d loved diving as a kid, to find out.

He selected his coral colonies.

He loaded his scuba gear and supplies...and set out for the reef.

One hopeful dive…

One optimistic experiment…

Six small coral colonies--each one the size of a hand with the fingers stretched--glued onto a limestone surface where a reef had once flourished and was now bleached and barren.

Would they grow?

Ken and his friends came back to check on the coral colonies again and again. Each month they had grown larger. It was too soon to say if the reef would fully recover, if the fish would return.

But it was a beginning.”


I just had the unforgettable experience of snorkeling in Maui. If you’ve never experienced snorkeling, I highly recommend it. It’s as if the ocean is an endless and wondrous fish tank that you’re looking into as you paddle around.


Sadly, so much of our world’s fish tank is now bleached and barren. As I snorkeled each morning, and saw the depletion of reefs, I could not help but think back to learning in school that more than two-thirds of the planet is covered with oceans, that all life began in the sea, and that we cannot survive if the sea, itself, does not survive.


It’s unnerving to consider how, these days, snorkeling preparations include the need to access online recommendations and guide book explanations about which portions of a particular bay or a stretch of beach still have live coral and, therefore, lots of sea life around it to observe.


Luckily, Ken Nedimyer’s parents supported his early obsession with sea life. We learn in THE BRILLIANT DEEP that young Ken had up to thirty saltwater aquariums operating in his childhood bedroom!


Ken grew up to work with sea life as a career, and he tried to make sense of the coral degradation he was observing. Eventually, once his coral restoration experimentations seemed to be panning out, Ken Nedimyer sought to take coral restoration to a higher level by beginning a foundation that trains volunteers to propagate coral and plant it on dying reefs in other parts of the world:


“Volunteers take great care with the homecoming. They search for just the right spot--a place where each coral colony can hold on once it’s grown enough to attach to the reef on its own. Divers scrape off any algae. They use chipping hammers, scraping and banging to get the surface even and smooth.

Then, with a careful dab of epoxy--just the size of a Hershey’s Kiss--volunteers attach the coral colonies. Piece by piece, arm by arm. Hoping they will grow on their own.”


This struggle is slow and uphill.  But there is a threat to life on Planet Earth if we cannot determine and slow down the root causes for the dying reefs. The book’s back matter includes a section on “What Happened to the Coral Reefs” that lists some of the possible culprits.


Interestingly, there was a lot of discussion in Maui about recent studies proving that certain chemicals found in sunscreens may be poisoning the coral. For instance:


“Oxybenzone is a common chemical found in all types of sunscreen, but particularly in the spray-on variety, that researchers have found harms coral, and is in high concentrations at some of the most world’s most popular reefs.

The UV-absorbing chemical found to poison coral in several ways. In a study published in 2015 and in researchset for publication later this year,biologists found that oxybenzone contributes to bleaching, has a similar effect on DNA to gasoline, and disrupts reproduction and growth, leaving young corals fatally deformed...”

-- The Guardian, “Slathering on sunscreen at the beach? It may be destroying coral reefs” (4/28/17)


In visualizing the action that takes place both above and below the sea, illustrator Matthew Forsythe employs pencil, pen and ink, gouache and digital effects. Perhaps the biggest challenge he surmounted was depicting the spawning of coral while keeping it looking real. In one spread, he simultaneously illustrates the green murkiness of the deep undersea, as seen underwater by the naked eye, being sliced through by a diver with a mask and a flashlight, to reveal the hidden magic-- the living colors and shapes of The Brilliant Deep.


There have long been conservation movements promoting tree planting aboveground. I hope that  Ken Nedimyer’s movement to plant coral under the sea will attract a similarly wide following.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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