Why is there no medium dedicated to the largest habitat on our planet, depicting it in all its fascinating diversity?
One of the most exciting magazine projects in recent times began with this question - and with the answer to it.
In the mid-1990s the Swiss marine biologist Nikolaus Gelpke gathered around him a small group of like-minded people and founded the dreiviertel verlag (now mareverlag).
The first edition of mare - Die Zeitschrift der Meere appeared in April 1997; its special theme was "transatlantic". Without exception, the feuilletons reported favourably, and mare - with its fascinating reports, clear layout and high-quality photography - quickly won over a faithful readership. After just a short time on the market came a flood of prizes and awards, including the World Press Photo Award, the Lead Award, the Hansel Mieth Prize, confirming the value of mare's content and its aesthetic concept in an impressive way.
The extremely positive resonance with readers led to the idea of transferring the success of the printed product to other media. There seemed to be no reason why the idea of presenting stories about the economical and cultural aspects of oceans shouldn't be just as fruitful elsewhere.
In 1999, the first mare-book was published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch: "Mit den Meeren leben", by Elisabeth Mann Borgese, is the German edition of the report to the Club of Rome, and energetically pleads the case for the protection of the oceans. Almost simultaneously the first mare audio books were published by Hörbuch Hamburg.
A further step in the strategy of giving the mare-brand a broader base was taken by television. In January 2001 the first episode of mare TV was shown by the Norddeutscher Rundfunk. It quickly became one of the most successful documentary series on television. Since 2002, the independent production company nonfictionplanet has produced the programme in co-operation with the NDR. For millions of viewers mare TV has become a synonym for high quality journalism on German television.
The first mare book had been brought out by another publishing house, so the foundation of the marebuchverlag together with the former director of Rowohlt, Nikolaus Hansen, in summer 2001 represented a further diversification. One year later, in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair in autumn 2002, the first publishing programme was presented. Denis Scheck could be won over as editor of the marebibliothek, in which authors from all over the world told their stories about the ocean.
The marebuchverlag's programme is oriented to the broad expanse of the ocean - in a literal as well as in a metaphorical sense. It covers a broad spectrum, ranging from adventure and discovery to popular science, cultural history, and fiction.
Just one year after the foundation of the marebuchverlag, a title made its way to the top of the German Spiegel's best seller list: John Griesemer's "Rausch" (published in English under the title "Signal and Noise").
Important literary prizes for individual authors followed - including the PEN Award for Nick Flynn's "Bullshit Nights" and the American National Book Award for William T. Vollmann; the marebuchverlag received the inaugural Übersetzerbarke, awarded by the Association of German Translators (Verband deutschsprachiger Übersetzer).
In January 2004, Nordwestradio, one of Radio Bremen and the NDR's radio stations, adapted mare's concept to develop a radio format based on the magazine, but independent of it. Since then, mare radio has been informing its listeners on the first Sunday of each month about the cultural aspects of the ocean - in a maritime spirit and with a sense for the joy of discovery.
There is more to mare than just magazines and books. Since 2001 mare has published photo calendars, and since 2004 photography books. A whole series of prizes such as the International Kodak Calendar Awards for "Meeresblicke (Ocean Views) 2006" and "Meeresblicke (Ocean Views) 2007" as well as the German Fotobuchpreis for "Nordmeer" reflect the high aesthetic standard of mare's entire publishing programme.
After Nikolaus Hansen left the marebuchverlag at the end of 2007, the activities of the marebuchverlag and the dreiviertel verlag were united in the newly founded mareverlag in 2008. The headquarters of both are now the offices in the Hamburger Speicherstadt.