cover image Among the Islands: 
Adventures in the Pacific

Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific

Tim Flannery. Atlantic, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2040-3

Close to 30 years ago, at the beginning of his career, Australian scientist Flannery (Throwim Way Leg) set sail to explore several remote islands in the southwest Pacific: Kiriwinia in the Trobriand Islands, Woodlark, and Alcester (all part of Papua New Guinea); Fiji; and New Caledonia. Flannery wanted to investigate how the mammal inhabitants on the islands had fared in the face of European colonization and the introduction of non-native species. Flannery regales us with tales of his traveling companions, such as Greg, the former Olympic wrestler and snake expert, who engaged in an evening of wizardry and derring-do before an audience of islanders. Among other discoveries, Flannery and his colleagues turn up two bat species distinct to New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago, enhancing the scientists’ understanding of the zoogeography of the island. Flannery recalls his earliest expedition with wonder and excitement at having investigated the influence of island biogeography on the mammals that had evolved there, discovering several new mammal species—such as Ennis’s flying fox, a bat whose males lactate to feed their young—and finding that some species documented by previous explorers had become extinct. Flannery is a crackerjack storyteller as well as a scientist. Map. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Nov.)