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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 Reef describes 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 Reef is 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