Glorious is not the adjective most Texans would use to describe the Gulf of Mexico. Most of us take it for granted. Generally, the nicest thing we say about the Gulf is that it’s close and convenient. Texas A&M University Press author and underwater photographer Jesse Cancelmo would like to change those perceptions with his book Glorious Gulf of Mexico: Life Below the Blue.
Stunned by widespread ignorance about the Gulf following the 2010 Macondo oil spill, Cancelmo decided to turn his camera on the marine life of this 600,000 square mile international sea that connects five American states, six Mexican states and the island nation of Cuba. Cancelmo’s work points out the practicality and necessity of cooperation between the three countries connected by this magnificent body of water in order to preserve and protect it for future generations. He captures a world rarely acknowledged, let alone seen.
As John Tunnell, Texas A&M University Press’s Gulf Coast Books Editor writes in his foreword, “Glorious, Gulf of Mexico? Most people who have not closely experienced the Gulf of Mexico, and probably all who have not seen it, would never think to use those words in the same sentence. Yet, individuals who have spent time in some of the more pristine, natural Gulf coast areas, or out in the open blue waters offshore, will tell you that there are some spectacular and beautiful places to be experienced. Very few individuals have had the opportunity to immerse themselves into the deep blue and amazingly colorful places out of the
mainstream locations of the Gulf, but those who have will tell you of the beauty of those special places. Rarer still are those who have had the opportunity to see these special places in all three countries surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.”
In this book, Cancelmo ventures out to all the special places the Gulf offers. More than 15,000 species including sperm whales, manta rays, whale sharks, manatees and spotted dolphins live between the Gulf’s rich shoreline habitats and its prolific oceanic communities. There they make their homes amidst dazzling coral reefs, brine seeps, canyons, salt domes and hard bottom banks.
Capturing images from locations all around the Gulf, Cancelmo reveals the beauty and glory of these diverse habitats and species showing readers the vibrant colors of the water, fish and reefs. We see sailfish hunting sardines, manatees and sea turtles with their young, and plenty of sharks.
Cancelmo encounteres a school of hammerhead sharks, and photographs their seemingly ominous silhouettes above him. While not aggressive toward humans, they still inspire respect and a slight bout of trepidation. He calls seeing the sharks swim above him “…one of the most magnificent ocean experiences I’ve ever had,” and it happened “not only in the Galápagos Islands and Cocos Islands but also at my ‘home’ reefs in the northern Gulf.”
The Gulf is also home to numerous shipwrecks, many of which are available for divers to explore. Some are in bays or just offshore while others are submerged beneath thousands of feet of water. There are suspected to be at least 750 wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.
Although the underwater photography is sensational, Cancelmo intends it to be more than a celebration of oceanic beauty. He also hopes to inspire better understanding and appreciation of the natural marine habitats in the Gulf and to strengthen support for their protection and sustainment. He ends the book with a call to action, a reminder that we cannot continue to take our Gulf for granted but should work to preserve it for future generations.
by Christine Brown
Publicity and Advertising Manager
Texas A&M University Press
As one of the top 20 university presses in the nation, the Texas A&M University Press publishes up to 65 new titles annually. Subjects range from borderland studies, gardening and horticulture, military history, natural history and the environment, presidential studies and works on the history and culture of Texas and the Southwest. Knowing the Roundtopolis is a melting pot of people with far-ranging interests, the press staff provides a book review each quarter highlighting one of its titles.