Published: November 2010

Japan's Ocean Wilderness

Japan Spadefish

3 Degrees of Japan's Seas

The waters off the coast vary from frigid to temperate to tropical. The marine life is uniformly extraordinary.

By Juli Berwald
Photograph by Brian Skerry

Sunlight streams between cracks in the ice. Thicker chunks glow emerald green, bejeweled by algae. The characters of this frosty realm begin to appear: a translucent, blue swimming snail, a pink fish with a tail like a geisha's fan, a bright orange lumpsucker that looks as if it leaped out of a Pokémon cartoon.

This is the underwater world that awaits photographer Brian Skerry, who is lumbering across the beach near a fishing town called Rausu, in Japan's northeastern corner. Wearing a hooded dry suit and carrying an air tank, hoses, regulator, and 32 pounds of weights, he pulls on his fins and slowly submerges his face to get used to the 29°F water. His lips go numb. And then, camera in hand, Skerry dives between the ice floes into the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk, bordering the Shiretoko Peninsula.

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