Helen Scales

Book signing by Ria Mishaal

Poseidon's Steed

Welcome to my story of seahorses

My first book is about a most peculiar and much-loved group of animals: the seahorses. The biography of seahorses, if you like.

It’s a blend of popular science, history, mythology, literature, and archaeology that traces a journey above and beneath the waves in pursuit of the elusive sea creatures that have captured the human imagination for thousands of years.

I wrote it because I wanted to dig into the strange fascination people have with these little animals – after all, seahorses are just fish. I wanted to explain how and why male seahorses get pregnant (and no, that doesn’t make them female. Read the book to find out why).

Poseidon’s Steed was published by Gotham Books (Penguin Group) in 2009 in hardback and in 2010 in paperback.

I’ve appeared on radio programmes around the world talking about seahorses including on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR in the US and Late Night Live on Radio National in Austraila.

Here are links to a few of those programmes.

A few reviews

‘In this fascinating book Helen Scales, an aptly named marine biologist, explains the myth, biology & ecology of what the Victorians called queer fish’  The Economist

‘Each chapter is a perfect blend of past and present, fact and whimsy’  Globe and Mail

‘A nuanced & thoughtful analysis’  National Geographic

‘Elegant & engaging’  Natural History Magazine

‘This is one charming book about one charming fish’  Booklist

‘Against every expectation, her attentive scientific descriptions show these sea-drifting enigmas to be even more wondrous than we previously thought’  Barnes & Nobel Recommends

The making of…

Some photos I took while researching & writing the book including trips to Belize, Vietnam, and the Orkney Islands.

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    Ambergris Cay mural
    View of Ambergris Cay, Belize, from the air
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    Ambergris Cay mural
    On Ambergris Cay I found seahorses above and below the waves.
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    Seahorse tour poster
    Tours to visit some of Belize's underwater wildlife.
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    Pink Fish
    Colourful fishy on Ambergris Cay, Belize.
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    Seahorse in a jar
    Touring the mangrove-fringed cays of Belize, proof is found that seahorses are real animals & not just fairy tales.
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    vicky house
    A lovely Belizean house, borrowed from a friend, where I wrote much of chapter 6.
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    Ribbonned pipefish
    Ribonned pipefish at Tennessee Aquarium. The inspiration - perhaps - for the Rainbow Serpent.
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    Tank of baby seahorses
    Tank of baby seahorses at Tennessee Aquarium.
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    Nha Trang
    Trawling boats at the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang.
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    South China Sea
    Motoring out for a night on the South China Sea on a Vietnamese trawler. Will we catch any seahorses?
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    Onboard a Vietnamese trawl boat, an octopus makes a break for the side.
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    seahorse stamp
    Vietnam celebrates one of its smaller, coastal residents on a postage stamp.
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    Live dead seahorses
    Dead and live seahorses on sale in a traditional medicine store in Vietnam.
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    Horse knocker
    Greeting me at the front door of a guest house I stayed at in the Orkneys.
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    You can just make out the curving outline of a Pictish seahorse on the Maidenstone in Scotland.
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    Books arrive
    The hardbacks arrive!