As something of a landlubber, I became aware only recently of the bounty that thrives in the salty depths off the Jersey Shore. And only after reading Beneath the Garden State: Exploring Aquatic New Jersey did I realize that Jersey’s seemingly dark and forbidding waters are alive with as varied and colorful an array of inhabitants as even the calmest, bluest sea.
Author Herb Segars reveals this wondrous world through more than 230 color photos, each with commentary from the veteran diver/photographer. Segars’s goal is to demonstrate the breadth of this hidden haven; he succeeds swimmingly. The Atlantic Ocean, he asserts, is Jersey’s “greatest natural resource.” It also puts on a heckuva show.
Some of the marine life depicted is expected and familiar. A bluefish is suspended motionless in deep water; a sand dollar pushes up a small ridge with its hard edge; a North American lobster seems to claw its way toward the camera. Other images are stunning and surprising. The horridly ugly sea raven hides in its own mottled skin; a similarly grotesque goosefish (aka monkfish) devours a hapless black sea bass; a school of banded rudderfish (striped like zebras) resembles a pack of escaped convicts. On other pages sleek sharks, translucent jellyfish, colorful sea stars and other intriguing creatures happen by.
Also intriguing are the book’s two chapters on manmade reefs and sunken craft. Here we witness the barnacled remains of an M60 tank, steam locomotives and shipwrecks dating to the 19th century. They remind us of New Jersey’s ability to sparkle in remarkable ways.