The Reef - A Passionate History - Iain McCalman

The Reef - A Passionate History - Iain McCalman

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Stretching 1,400 miles along the Australian coast and visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is home to three thousand individual reefs, more than nine hundred islands, and thousands of marine species, and has alternately been viewed as a deadly maze, an economic bounty, a scientific frontier, and a precarious World Heritage site. Now the historian and explorer Iain McCalman takes us on a new adventure into the reef to reveal how our shifting perceptions of the natural world have shaped this extraordinary seascape. Showcasing the lives of twenty individuals spanning more than two centuries, The Reef highlights our profound desire to conquer, understand, embrace, and ultimately save the world's most complex ocean ecosystem.

Opening with the story of Captain James Cook, who sailed unknowingly into the southwest entrance of this vast network of coral outcroppings, McCalman shows how Cook spent months navigating this treacherous underwater labyrinth, struggling to keep his crew alive and his ship afloat, sparring with deceptive shoals and wary native islanders. Through a series of dramatic tales from intrepid explorers, unwitting castaways, inquisitive naturalists, enchanted artists, and impassioned environmentalists who have collectively shaped our ideas about the Great Barrier Reef, McCalman demonstrates how this grand natural wonder of the world was built as much by human imagination as by the industrious, beautiful creatures of the sea.

A romantic, historically significant book and a deeply personal journey into the heart of a marine environment in peril, The Reef powerfully captures the delicate relationship between humanity and the natural world.

Industry Reviews

"[Iain] McCalman has written an innovative history . . .His approach is at once episodic and kaleidoscopic . . . McCalman's own passion for the Reef informs the book throughout, whether in his engaging account of sailing through it in a replica of Cook's HMS Endeavour, or in his concluding laments for its environmental degradation . . . For a work about such a vast topic--big in scale, big in its implications for how we hold a planet in trust--The Reef is a compellingly intimate account of human interaction with this slice of nature." --David Armitage, Los Angeles Review of Books

"By the end of McCalman's transformative book, we feel the full force of this slow-motion emergency. In story after story of fascination and trepidation, in revelations and in requiems, this passionate history brings to life the Great Barrier Reef's magnificent mutability." --Rob Nixon, The New York Times Book Review

"A masterly biography of the Great Barrier Reef . . . Mr McCalman's sweeping and absorbing history is well timed." --The Economist

"Australia's Great Barrier Reef stretches for around 1,430 miles along the continent's northeast coast, encompassing an area roughly half the size of Texas. Those who have dived into its pristine reaches know firsthand that it is one of Earth's natural wonders--a coral world of exceptional beauty and diversity. Yet as Iain McCalman's passionate history of the reef makes clear, it is also a stage on which dreams, ambitions, and great human tragedies have been played out. He tells his story by chronicling lives that, either inadvertently or intentionally, have shaped our perception of the coralline labyrinth." --Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books

"McCalman's tone shifts from the boy's own adventure, scientific excitement and scamming of early encounters, to dizzying disaster-epic suspense. But never for a moment does his literary skill falter. His detailed explanation of marine science is a model of translation for the layman. And his respect for Indigenous people is a model of intercultural translation . . . He describes the Indigenous view of events without exoticising the individuals he talks to. Nostalgia permeates the book, for ancestral lands lost and for what we all might be losing now." --Miriam Cosic, The Guardian (UK)

"Splendid . . . [A] wonderful paean to the Great Barrier Reef." --David B. Williams, The Seattle Times

"An intimate exploration of the Great Barrier Reef . . . The Reef uncovers personal stories that weave together the biological evolution and human discovery of the Great Barrier Reef culminating in its current state--a World Heritage site in desperate need of protection." --The Inquirer and Mirror (Nantucket, MA)

"The Great Barrier Reef is both easily understood and awe-inspiring in this history of its discovery, exploitation and beauty." --Julia Jenkins, Shelf Awareness


"No other historian I know brings together exploration, science, the environment, and strange experience with the erudition and the eloquence of Iain McCalman. The Reef is utterly absorbing as well as richly informative." --Nicholas Thomas, director and curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 416
Published: 14th November 2016
Publisher: Penguin Australia Pty Ltd
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 2.9 x 13.2  x 19.8
Weight (kg): 0.34
Edition Number: 1

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