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The Reef

A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 31, 2014 – This lively, detailed, and unabashedly Eurocentric history of the interaction between navigators, castaways, scientists, and the Great Barrier Reef tells a story of place through the biographies and first-person accounts of the notable individuals who have encountered the Reef. McCalman (Darwin's Armada) delivers the facts with a deft blend of Robinson Crusoe like adventure tale, hearty sea shanty, and society gossip rag. The dozen stories start with James Cook's 1770 "discovery" of the massive coral structures around New Holland, move through William Kent's 1880s research projects as the first "scientist-photographer" (which gave the Western world an understanding of the Reef's beauty), and reach the present day as coral expert Charlie Veron tells the Royal Society that greenhouse gases are killing the reefs "the canaries of climate change" and acidifying of the oceans. While McCalman briefly acknowledges Aboriginal Australians as travel companions on a BBC-funded recreation of Cook's voyage the indigenous point of view is notably missing, with the native people of Australia only described through outsider reports as noble savages or fearsome cannibals. Though McCalman successfully brings his exploring protagonists from the historical record into life, the choices of stories this piece tells lean unnecessarily toward colonialist exoticism. B&w illus.
The Reef
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Science & Nature
  • Published: May 20, 2014
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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