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  July/August 1998 Features:
Our Only Ocean
A Place of Unrest
The Lobster Trap
Just Beneath the Surface
The Hidden Life of Shrimp
Field Guide
Ways & Means
Food for Thought
Way to Go
Hearth & Home
Lay of the Land
Sierra Club Bulletin
Natural Resources
Last Words

Sierra Magazine
Field Guide: Total Immersion

By Editor-in-chief Joan Hamilton

In this special issue on the vast topic of oceans, we've stayed close to home, along the coasts of Alaska, California, Maine, and Florida. Even so, as we dive down to the unearthly realms of lobster, coral, and squid, we discover places so unfamiliar, intense, and full of vital information that we'd have to leave the planet entirely to find ourselves more amazed.

Nancy Lord opens with a global perspective in "Only One Ocean." A commercial fisherwoman, Lord has penned Sierra pieces on salmon and Native American languages, plus many other articles and books, including Fishcamp: Life on an Alaskan Shore (Island Press, 1997), which was nominated for a John Burroughs Award for nature writing. In this issue, a visit to the dying Mediterranean sharpens her appreciation for her own Alaskan waters.

Reporter Susan Pollack started her journalism career in 1974, working for a weekly paper in Amagansett, a fishing town on Long Island. "The place touched me," she says. "So did the lives of the fishermen." For the East Hampton Star and later for National Fisherman, she rode on factory trawlers and lobster boats, providing firsthand accounts of those who make a living from the sea. In 1994 she wrote about the collapse of the Northeast's cod fishery for Sierra. For "The Lobster Trap" in this issue she tells a more hopeful tale in which there is still time for humans to do the right thing.

Another seaworthy journalist, Bill Belleville, donned scuba gear to research "A Place of Unrest," about coral reefs in the Florida Keys. Belleville earned his diving certification to cover a story for Newsweek 20 years ago and has since explored the sea for Audubon, Sports Afield, and Reader's Digest. "Things can look dandy from the surface-palm trees swaying in the breeze, birds chirping," Belleville says. "But if you take a good look under water, the ecological outlook is not always so cheery."

Our guide to ocean adventure is Glenn Vanstrum, a San Diego physician who has roamed the world in search of grist for his photography and writing (which have appeared in National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, and Ocean Realm). His favorite subject is scuba diving-because, as he explains in "Just Beneath the Surface," it's so far removed from everyday life.

The oceans are examined here through different lenses: Pollack sees them as a food factory; Belleville, as a rich biological soup; and Vanstrum, as a challenge for explorers. In the end, though, each author echoes Lord's overarching message: even the vast oceans have their limits.

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