Islands Beyond the Horizon: The Life of Twenty of the World’s Most Remote Places

Roger Lovegrove. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-19-960649-8
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.)
Reviewed on: 08/06/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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