Laurie Zaleski

Long Beach author Laurie Zaleski and her new book.

Laurie Zaleski spent much of her life traveling as a marine geologist, conducting geological surveys and mapping the ocean floor.

She has since settled in Long Beach, and begun a second career writing, primarily for children. Her first book, A Young Person’s Field Guide to Finding Lost Shipwrecks, has been published by Austin Macauley Publishers.

"The focus of the book is explaining geological oceanography, but the fun part is the search for shipwrecks," Zaleski said. "It's about our 2004 trip to find the Santísima, a 200-year-old shipwreck… 

"I have a 12-year-old granddaughter now. I've always wanted to keep youngsters engaged in math and science; girls in particular. That's why I wrote it as a children's book."

The book is autobiographical, telling the true story of the search for the shipwreck off the coast of Cadiz, Spain. The 37-meter research boat named Hercules carried a crew of 14, including Zaleski, three archeologists and two college interns. 

The 70-page book engages the reader with the tale of a shipwreck search while also managing to explain complex science like the workings of a multi-beam sonar scanner and other scientific principles.

Zaleski was in charge of the 2004 expedition. Spoiler alert — she and her crew found multiple shipwrecks, but were unable to complete the dives necessary to definitively identify the Santísima. Visibility was too poor for the remote rover to do much more than say something was on the ocean floor.

"I try to portray what it really was like to work on a research vessel," Zaleski said. "It's about science, but it's about a lot more than science, too."

Zaleski takes a straight-forward tone in her writing, avoiding talking down to her target audience of 9- to 14-year-olds. She said she's already received thank you notes from other geologists and archeologists for explaining what it's like to work in the field.

Launching a book in the middle of the coronavirus shutdown has proven to be challenging, Zaleski said, but sales are going well. A Young Person’s Field Guide to Finding Lost Shipwrecks is available at the Barnes & Noble in the Marina Pacifica center as well as online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites in hardback, paperback and Kindle.

"Once things open up again, I want to do book signings, all that," Zalenski said. "I'm reaching out to schools now to see about Zoom events."

She also has already begun writing again; this time a series for younger children called Travels With Ariel. The books will follow a young (very young) geologist as she travels around the globe solving questions — and teaching some science and math at the same time.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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