Suddenly the screens fill with smoky blue; thick stalks of kelp
sway as if in a syrupy breeze. The kelp is everywhere; it's as if
Jack has turned to cultivating beanstalks. Moe appears, and as the
camera pans the underwater forest, so, too, do a brilliant orange
kelp snail, a red sea urchin, a stoic kelp bass, an enormous
lobster, and a sea star, toppling end over end in the surge. At
first, the fifth graders absorb this in silence - the oddity of
being underwater without being underwater - and then the questions
"What kind of fish is that?"
"Where are the lobster's eyes?"
"What's the difference between a starfish and a sea star?"
"Is SpongeBob down there?"
If he is, he's holding onto his square pants for dear life. Yet,
despite the tough conditions, for 30 minutes Faulkner's fish-eye
lens and Moe's voice - answering the children's questions, pointing
out creatures surreal and lovely - free the sea's magic from its
When the show ends, Herring beams at the kids.
"Bet you never thought you were going to get to hike through the
kelp forest," she says.
From Stellwagen Bank to Gray's Reef, from the Channel
Islands to the Florida Keys, from tiny Fagatele Bay sanctuary
(one-quarter square mile) to the mammoth Monterey Bay sanctuary
(5,300 square miles), America's 13 national marine sanctuaries are
a fun paradise where you might kayak through dripping sea caves or
shadowy mangroves, surf empty waves, dive a wreck hung with
shimmering barracuda, or gulp a lungful of air and fin down through
the water column to hang motionless in the blue, listening to the
long wails from singing humpback whales. Should you opt to stay
dry, the magic is undiminished. There's interactive video that
brings the kelp forest to you; untrammeled tide pools in which to
poke about; stellar fishing and birding (several sanctuaries are
home to birds found nowhere else); and wildlife-watching trips
where any surprise might rise from the ocean - rare northern right
whales, frolicking humpbacks, or perhaps an ocean churned to a
white-capped frenzy by the explosive play of 1,000 common