Seventy per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water. This vast aquatic realm is inhabited by a multitude of strange creatures and reigning supreme among them are the fish.
There are giants that live for centuries and thumb-sized tiddlers that survive only weeks; they can be pancake-flat or inflatable balloons; they can shout with colours or hide in plain sight, cheat and dance, remember and say sorry; some rarely budge while others travel the globe restlessly. And yet the mesmerising and complex lives of fish remain largely underrated and unseen, living hidden beneath the waterline, out of sight and out of mind.
Helen Scales is our guide on an underwater journey, as we fathom the depths and watch these animals going about the glorious business of being fish. As well as the fish, we meet devoted fishwatchers past and present, from voodoo zombie potion hunters and scientists who taught fish how to walk to nonagenarian explorers of the deep sea.
Woven throughout are vignettes of Helen's own aquatic explorations, from eerie nighttime dives with glowing fish and up-close encounters with giant manta rays, to floating in the middle of a swirling shoal being watched by thousands of inquisitive eyes.
As well as being a rich and entertaining read, Eye of the Shoal will inspire readers to think again about these animals and the seas they inhabit, and to go out and appreciate the wonders of fish, whether through the glass walls of an aquarium or, better still, by gazing into the fishes' wild world and swimming through it.
Helen Scales is a marine biologist based in Cambridge. Her doctorate involved searching for giant, endangered fish in Borneo; she's also tagged sharks in California, and once spent a year cataloguing all the marine life she could find surrounding a hundred islands in the Andaman Sea. Helen regularly appears on BBC Radio 4, Sky News and the BBC World Service, and has presented documentaries on topics such as whether people will ever live underwater, the science of surfing and the intricacies of sharks' minds. She is scientific advisor to the charity Sea Changers, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a tutor at the University of Cambridge. Her previous book Spirals in Time was BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week, a number one smash on Amazon and a Guardian bestseller
"Scales's genuine appreciation and awe for fish are contagious. She continually entices the reader by introducing exciting aspects of fish in each chapter."
"A delightful book that provides a welcome invitation to enter the amazing world of fish."
– New Scientist
"An engaging and informative bouillabaisse."
– The Economist
"A sprawling, ambitious underwater journey studded with fascinating tidbits."
– New York Times Book Review
"This aquarium of a book is an eloquent reminder of how remarkable [fish] are."
– Natural History
"Enthralling and thought-provoking"
"Helen Scales invites us to dive below the waterline as she reveals the hidden but glorious lives of fish going about their rather fascinating business."
"Eye of the Shoal is a book brimming with wonders. Shimmering colors, otherworldly abilities, and compelling dramas flood every page, as the masterful Helen Scales brings us eye-to-eye with the world of fishes – creatures who are at once thrillingly strange and startlingly ubiquitous. Whether you snorkel or scuba, whether you meet fish in a tank or on TV, this book is new portal to see our blue planet with new eyes, one that will make you love our world and its creatures all the more."
– Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
"Eye of the Shoal is like a beautiful glass bottomed boat that reveals this mysterious realm with joyful passion and perfect clarity. You couldn't have a more knowledgable guide on board than Helen."
– Dallas Campbell, science broadcaster and author
"Eye of the Shoal is an absorbing account of the least understood area of our planet. Helen brings the depths to life, not only with wondrous accounts from her extensive travels, but also by introducing us to some magnificently improbable characters (both human and piscine), and by astonishing us with mind-blowing facts on every page."
– James Harkin, QI's Head Elf and presenter on the award-winning podcast No Such Thing as a Fish
"This fantastic and timely book will change your perspective on your pet goldfish, a fishmonger's window display, a darting flash of silver glimpsed from a boat and the colourful world of a coral reef. A must-read for anyone interested in life on Earth."
– Helen Czerski, physicist, oceanographer and author of Storm in a Teacup
"If you already love fish wherever they swim, you'll be astonished by so many new discoveries in these pages. If you don't love fish – you surely will.'"
– Carl Safina, author of The View From Lazy Point and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel