The Reef: A Passionate History
The Great Barrier Reef, argues Iain McCalman, has been created by human minds as well as coral polyps, by imaginations as well as natural processes. In this landmark book he charts our shifting perceptions of it, from the terrifying labyrinth that almost sunk Cook's Endeavour to a fragile global treasure.
The Reefdescribes twelve key encounters between people, places, ideas and biosystems. In the nineteenth century the region was infamous for shipwrecks, and when Indigenous clans rescued survivors like Eliza Fraser, their actions were misrepresented in the popular press. Later, the whole world caught the fiery debate between Darwinists and creationists over the origins of this colossal structure. Artists and visionaries celebrated its beauty and fought its exploitation; marine scientists catalogued the threats to its existence.
The first social, cultural and environmental history of this World Heritage-listed site, The Reefis an effortlessly readable work by a born storyteller.
'Effortlessly synthesise scientific information, scholarship, fascinating and perceptive accounts of the great environmental and creationist debates over the last two hundred years, and a witty and perceptive appreciation of human foibles.' Jacqueline Kent, Australia Book Review
'Evocative and brilliant. A human history of one of the world's most astonishing ecosystems, and history at its best: enlightening, compelling and impossible to put down.' Mark McKenna
'With this book, McCalman cements his reputation as one of the finest historians of our times.' Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago
Iain McCalman was born in Nyasaland, Africa in 1947 and now lives in Sydney, where he is research professor at the University of Sydney. He has held numerous visiting research fellowships in Britain and the United States, including at All Souls, Oxford, and most recently at the Californian University of Technology, Pasadena. In 1994 he was awarded the inaugural Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence at the Australian National University, and in 2007 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to history and the humanities. His previous books include The Seven Ordeals of Count Cagliostro, which has been translated into twelve languages, and he has been a historical consultant and narrator for a number of documentaries and films. www.the-reef.com.au