Friday, 3 August 2018

The Nature Bookshelf - what I'm reading

Location is a key element of most nature writing. Terrain and climate determine the plants and animals that live there. Place plays a role, too, in how people experience and interact with nature.

Some places are universal 'hot' topics - the polar regions, Galapagos Islands, Himalayan mountains. Others will only ever attract a smaller, domestic readership. Yet these works record a place, time, and depict nature in ways that other media cannot. These local books deserve a wide readership, but sadly I think in New Zealand this readership is diminishing. Fewer people seem to know what local books are available or where to buy them, turning to Amazon or Book Depository for their reading material, rather than local outlets such as publishers' websites or bookshops. Some books remain in print such a short time that I have to resort to borrowing from the library or haunting second-hand bookshops to search them out.

Here's a few local books I've been reading, both deserve to be better known.

Tales from Abel Tasman National Park
 The obscure title People Came Later doesn't do justice to this delightful book about the Abel Tasman National Park by Perrine Moncrieff. Years before the National Park was formed Perrine and her family built a bach in a bay across from Adele Island. The chapters range from amusing anecdotes about people and boats, through to more serious topics such as the arrival of stoats and the demise of the penguin population.

Perrine was a mover and shaker. She was instrumental in saving forest from being logged and birds from being indiscriminately shot. She campaigned for the formation of Abel Tasman National Park. Shortly after I'd finished reading it, I was lucky enough to be taken to Adele Island and could see for myself the places that she wrote about. It's very different now, the few seals on the island were far outnumbered by the kayakers and tour boats.

I had to source this book from the library as it is long out of
print. A reprint with photos and additional interpretation would do a great job in telling the history of this beautiful national park.
Adele Island 2018
The story of Marine Life in Otago
At 64 pages, this book is both a succinct snapshot of marine life in and around Dunedin Harbour and  a short history of the Portobello Marine Laboratory. The two are intertwined, with an excellent use of side-bars full of information snippets, sometimes about the scientists, sometimes about marine life. I enjoyed the anecdotes about the octopus and the chance observations in the aquarium at night, as much as the stories about marine life in the ocean. The authors Keith Probert, John Jillett and Sally Carson, must have found it hard deciding what to leave out, as there would have been many more anecdotes they could have included. They did a good job balancing anecdotes and scientific information. While no longer available from its publisher, copies can still be purchased from Otago University Marine Studies Centre

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