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Book Review: 

Related Articles: The Macro- Paradise Which is N. Sulawesi

Realm of the Pygmy Seahorse

Constantino Petrinos, writer/photographer

256pp, 9 ?" x 11 ?", Hardbound, $59.00

Published by: Starfish Press, Athens, Greece

ISBN 960-87016-0-0 1998

Available from Sea Challengers Natural History Books, Etc.

35 Versailles Court, Danville, CA 94506

925-327-7750 (voice); 925-736-8982 (fax)

www.seachallengers.com or info@seachallengers.com

By Bob Fenner


There are precious few works that can be described as "fitting", saleable, useful in the fields of "coffee-table" underwater picture works, essay on travel adventure to a region, of aquarium/aquarist interest, insightful to scuba divers with a natural history interest, and treatises of conservation note. The Realm of the Pygmy Seahorse qualifies on all of these points and more. Warning: Should you peruse this work, you may well find yourself inclined to take up underwater photography, and definitely traveling to the Lembeh Strait of Indonesia's Sulawesi Island… where Constantino lived/dived some five months, 320 dives, 25,000 slides to make this book.


The Introduction tells the story of place: the Kungkungan Beach Resort (KBR), near the northeastern tip of Indonesia's Sulawesi Island (formerly Celebes) in the Southwest Pacific. Constantinos gives an admirable account of the history of the resort, its setting adjoining the Lembeh Strait. At this junction, the book reads more like an enthusiastic travel guide, with numerous references to regional attractions. However the end of this brief intro. Turns at last to serious description of dive planning, and what the author went through to bring this book together image-wise.

The next section, Photography & Conservation will be of immense interest to photographers… to be or well on their way; relating instances of inspiration, consternation, outright ruin with gear, human nature. A few pages are dedicated to the not-so-sub-theme of promoting careful use of the planets aquatic resources, specifically the Lembah Strait Preservation Society:

In The Coral Reef, A Community of Chaotic Harmony are many images of sea life eating sea life, amazing close-ups of Mantis shrimps, a mouth-watering description of a dive site with MANY psychedelic gobies…

Survival Recipes features pix, descriptions of various strategies employed by fishes and invertebrates to either secure food or prevent becoming same.

Innovative Housing Concepts is self-explanatory… flotsam (too nice a euphemism, garbage) utilized as habitat. Especially like the Clownfish who lives on/in a shoe!

Reef Sex. Got to have it. Dissertation on how life makes more of itself. Lavishly illustrated with breathtaking photographs of course.

Crinoid Community is the most astonishing mix of photographs of the "sea-lilies" and particularly their fish and crustacean commensals I have ever seen. Brilliant nighttime photography.

Snails and Nudibranchs, is another phantasmagoria of imagery, including an amazing shot of a Side-gilled Slug that looks like a resting octopus!

Seahorses and Pipefishes abound in the Lembeh Strait, including the gratuitous namesakes of this books title. Ghostpipes (family Solenostomidae) are found here in good numbers if you're keen of eye as well.

The last section, Fishes, offers a hodge podge of mainly rare fishes. Frogfishes, Scorpionfishes in particular.

The book finishes off with an Epilogue of more warnings… the ills of pollution, global warming… and a useful Notes & Abbreviations addendum. Very useful for the uninitiated.

What this Reviewer Particularly Liked:

The 280 photographs are spectacular… as is the work done in scanning, making them ready for publication. The accompanying caption work is outstanding as well… often incorporating humor as well as keen insight, interpretation of the behavior expressed in the images.

The many useful insights into what it takes to make worthwhile underwater images… the human as well as the technical sides. If for no other reason than wanting to check notes, learn from another practitioner, buy this work to avoid some of the all-too-common pitfalls detailed here.

The encouraging to the point of nervous excitation of the reader to try other types of dive sites. Many scuba and snorkel types avoid "muck diving"… thinking there is little of interest over mud, sand bottoms… Few things can be further from the truth. Nighttime forays are especially productive here.

What I Didn't Particularly Care For:

The proselytizing re human destruction of aquatic environments… Equating eating tuna fish sandwiches as "living on tiger steak" is disingenuous, let alone hypocritical. The planet, including the environments of tunas and tigers should be carefully used. Neglecting them in the face of explosive human populations will not save these, other species.

Conclusive Remarks:

I hope to travel "around the corner" from where I've been around Manado at the northeastern end of Sulawesi (Bunaken principally), to the fabulous Kungkungan Beach Resort (www.kungkungan.com) to dive, photograph the life there. If you read this book, I may well see you there. Realm of the Pygmy Seahorse is informative and inspirational for aquarists, divers; folks who just have regard for beauty, nature, and humanity.

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