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Wandering over a wide geographical area, from the Arctic and the Antarctic to the Atlantic and Pacific, Lovegrove takes us to islands familiar and unknown, ranging from the storm-bound island of South Georgia and the ice-locked island of Wrangel to the wind-swept, wave-lashed islands of Mykines and St Kilda. We travel to Halfmoon Island, a haven for penguins near the Antarctic, to tropical Tuamotu in French Polynesia, to the beautiful volcanic island of Pico, and to Tristan da Cunha, perhaps the most remote place on earth. Lovegrove set us down on each of these far-off exotic places, describing the diverse wildlife and vegetation to be found there, and highlighting the impact humans have had on their fragile ecosystems. He shows how the presence of humans has been felt in a variety of ways, from the exploitation of birds for food to the elimination of native vegetation for crops, and he points to Guam is an extreme example--perhaps the extreme example--of the dreadful effects that we can have on an oceanic island. Once a tropical paradise, modern Guam is, he writes, "defined by the silence of the birds."
Throughout, Lovegrove reveals that whatever the nature of islands--distant, offshore, inhabited, uninhabited, tropical, or polar--their mystique and magnetism is irresistible. His Islands Beyond the Horizon will be the perfect escape for armchair travelers who yearn to visit far-flung exotic locales.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-08-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Welsh naturalist Lovegrove (Silent Fields) examines the flora, fauna, and peoples of far-flung and inaccessible islands that dot each of the major oceans to better understand both their allure and natural history. His field knowledge is extensive and exhaustive; few besides master ornithologists will be able to identify such birds as the Arctic skua on Mykines (in the Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic) or Leach’s petrels on St. Kilda (off Scotland’s western coast). Lovegrove fascinates when describing indigenous peoples’ folkways and struggles for survival, such as his graphic description of how the inhabitants of Pico (in the Azores) capture sperm whales. He also makes clear his belief that human settlement by nonindigenous people has made for “long-term ecological desecration” in such once pristine settings as Ile aux Aigrettes, a satellite island of Mauritius in the western Indian Ocean. Occasionally, Lovegrove can be cursory and almost condescendingly romantic, as in his depiction of the Cuna natives of San Blas (off Panama’s Caribbean coast) as “a fine-looking race, friendly and happy,” who “maintain their old religion, closely related to their medicinal beliefs.” However, this brief, idiosyncratic, colorful book introduces readers to oases of biodiversity that few are likely to visit and whose distinctiveness may soon be lost in an increasingly homogenized world. 20 b&w illus., 8-page color plate section, maps. (Nov.)