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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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May 2003 Vol. 29, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Essential Dive Books

from the May, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you're a serious diver, you want to know what you see in the deep. The only way to know is to take a good book with you to identify the fish and study their behavior. Most dive resorts and liveaboards stock a few dog-eared copies, but they may not be current or complete -- or when you want to look up something you've just seen, someone else has taken the book to his room.

Here's a list of the best ID books to put into your reference library. I have each of these books, I take them when I travel, and I refer to them when I write. You can find longer descriptions on our website at Undercurrent. Prices quoted are from If you order through Undercurrent, you get's best price, and we'll donate a good hunk of the profit to the Coral Reef Alliance.

Nothing is comparable to the Paul Humann- Ned DeLoach, three-volume Caribbean series.

Reef Fish Identification (Caribbean), by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach. At more than 500 pages, the January 2001 edition is 20 percent larger than the 1984 volume and carries excellent photos and descriptions of adults and juveniles -- everything from sharks to gobies. Spiral bound, 6 x 9 inches.

Reef Coral Identification (Caribbean), by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach. Helps identify all the hard and soft corals, spawning, and even the growth on top of corals, as well as algae and other plant life. Plenty of additions since previous editions. Spiral bound, 6 x 9 inches, 276 pages.

Reef Creature Identification (Caribbean), by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach. An unparalleled source for information on starfish, crustaceans, nudibranchs, octopuses, Christmas tree worms, and all the critters. Sponges, too -- after all they're animals. Spiral bound, 6 x 9 inches, 420 pages.

Individual books sell for $39.95, but you can get a set of all three for $84.

Watching Fishes: Understanding Coral Reef Fish Behavior, by Roberta Wilson and James Q. Wilson. Describes why and how fish change color, how they smell and socialize, the difference between day and night behavior, even how damsels cultivate algae patches -- which is why they attack you when you fin by. Paperback, 6 x 9 inches, 274 pages. $11.17

Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide, by Gerald R. Allen and Roger Steene. Covers everything from fish, shells, marine plants, mammals, corals, and invertebrates to sea birds and more. Good for travel to the Red Sea, East Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives, Andaman Sea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Hawaii; it has 1,800 color illustrations in a 6 x 8.5 inches, paperback format with 378 pages. $39.95

Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific, by Terrence M. Gosliner, David W. Behrens, and Gary C. Williams. The complete guide, with color photos of 1,100 species. Good notes to help find and identify each critter. Indispensable for any Indo-Pacific trip. Paperback, 8 x 11 inches, 314 pages. $45.00

Hawaii's Sea Creatures, a Guide to Hawaii's Marine Invertebrates, by John P. Hoover. A new sequel to author-photographer John Hoover's bestselling Hawaii's Fishes, it contains 600 color photos of lobsters, shrimps, crabs, snails, nudibranchs, octopuses, corals, anemones, worms, sea stars, and other lesser-known Hawaiian creatures. Softcover, 6 x 9 inches. $23.95

Sea of Cortez Marine Animals, by Daniell W. Gotshall. The book you'll need to identify critters anywhere along Mexico's Pacific Coast, all the way to Panama. Gotshall, a marine biologist with 34 years research experience, has more than 250 photos of fish, corals, nudibranchs, lobsters, sea stars, and other critters endemic to these waters. For each animal there are tips on how to identify and where to spot it. Paperback, 7.25 x 9.25 inches, 110 pages. $20.95

The Sharkwatchers Handbook: A Guide to Sharks and Where to See Them, by Mark Carwardine and Ken Watterson. Not only covers much about the habits and activities of sharks, but also it provides good ideas about photographing them. Twenty-five shark species are described in detail, as are 267 worldwide sites where divers can encounter sharks from land-based or liveaboard operations. Hardbound, 288 pages. $17.47

World Atlas of Coral Reefs, by Mark D. Spalding, Corinna Ravilious, and Edmund P. Green, United Nations World Conservation Monitoring Center. Everything you want to know about the reefs from Costa Rica and Cuba to the Coral Sea and Cayman. The information is specific and up-to-date. The photos, maps, and layout superb. Hardcover, 8.5 x 12, 424 pages. $31.50

-- Ben Davison

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