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The Reef: A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change
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The Reef: A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  138 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Stretching 1,400 miles along the Australian coast and visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is home to three thousand individual reefs, more than nine hundred islands, and thousands of marine species, and has alternately been viewed as a deadly maze, an economic bounty, a scientific frontier, and a precarious World Heritage site. Now the historian and explorer Iain Mc ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,186)
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Deborah Ideiosepius  omnivorous reader
In 2001 the author, a historian, got the enviable chance to act as crew on a ship as part of a re-enactment of The Endeavor's historical journey through the northern great barrier reef, up to Cooktown (as it is today) where captain Cook stopped for repairs. While the BBC show sounds uninspiring, it did trigger in McCalman an awe and deep fascination in the GBR that led to him writing this book.

The Reef; a passionate history, reads ultimately as a tribute to the GBR by someone who fell under its
Dave DeWitt
May 31, 2015 Dave DeWitt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a passion for natural history, so this fine book by Iain McCalman really appealed to me. It’s very interdisciplinary, so it’s not just a book about the largest reef system in the world–Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. McCalman also delves into zoology, botany, geology, meteorology, besides human history, biography, and economics. Generally, he covers the history of the discovery of the reef system and the theories about it chronologically, from Captain Cook getting stuck in the middle of i ...more
Martina Prazeres
Amazing book - a must read for those who love and treasure the Great Barrier Reef! Easy to read, full of interesting characters, history and science.
Jul 13, 2015 Dolly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this on GoodReads.

“The Reef” was definitely a labor of love for Iain McCalman. It is in-depth stories from the European discovers and researchers of the Great Barrier Reef. This is a through work cataloging the main players in the history of the reef. It covers their relationship to the reef and their love/hate of it. It impressed me that from an early time (the mid-1800’s) it was realized how delicate the ecosystem of the reef is. Great read for anyone interested in this area. I
Aug 18, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In twelve different stories, organised into chapters titled 'Terror', 'Nurture' and 'Wonder', Ian McCalman examines the history of the Great Barrier Reef since its discovery by Captain James Cook when his ship, the 'Endeavour' foundered on its shoals in 1770.

Since then, people have charted its waters; have been shipwrecked and taken in by the indigenous people; have wondered at its biodiversity and its creation; and are now trying to predict its future in the face of climate change and ever-inc
Jul 12, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book
On a research trip about a dozen years ago, McCalman falls in love with Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In the ensuing years he puts together a comprehensive picture of the Reef - history, natives, artists, threats - and presents this book. The book is well researched and well written but one must really want to know about the Reef to get the full value of the writing. For me it was a bit much. Best parts were the historical writing, especially about Cook's exploration and Darwin's theory of the ...more
Sep 24, 2016 Jalyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book full of stories that tell the fascinating natural and human histories of the Great Barrier Reef. It's actually a five-star book except for the ending, when the author airs his frustrations about what people are doing to damage the reef. It's not as well written as the rest of the book, and rather than encouraging people to do something to save the reef (which was probably what was intended), it really just snuffs out the spark the rest of the book had ignited. Skip the end, enjoy th ...more
Alison Dellit
McCalman is a superlative storyteller (Darwin's Armada may be the perfect science history), and the reef is one of my Alltime Favourite Things Ever, so this was a hotly anticipated read. As expected, it is readable and gorgeous, full of larger than life characters, and the simple take-your-breath away beauty, depth, diversity and wonder of the GBR saturates the volume. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the book.

But. Ah, the but. The format of short stories doesn't show off McCalman at his best. F
James Whitmore
It feels quite poignant that I finished this the evening our government gave the go ahead for port development on the Great Barrier Reef. If the forecast of reef scientist Charlie Veron in grim final chapter of Iain McCalman's history of the Reef is correct, then this dredging and the subsequent coal exports from Queensland might not be a blow to the Reef, but a death knell.

That being said this is a quietly brilliant history of the Great Barrier Reef. McCalman builds his case slowly, lingering o
May 07, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was thinking, for whatever reason, that this book would be a natural history of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but until the last few chapters, it's more about the human history of the region, more about sailors and settlers than about scientists. The stories are interesting, and provided a good understanding of the history of the area around the reef and the culture clashes between European transplants and native Aborigines.

I did want to learn more about the reef itself and its ecology, so I
Mike Histand
Jan 20, 2015 Mike Histand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading a couple of Australia related books a year in anticipation of visiting. The Reef was an excellent intro to the history of the exploration of the Great Barrier Reef, anecdotal stories, theories of origin and current threats to its existence. The author paints the history via fascinating personalities who were protagonists in its exploration and growing fame as a destination.
Oct 24, 2015 Jbondandrews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely wonderful book about the Great Barrier Reef. I know my Mother had a special fondness for this remarkable piece of the ocean. I hope that Iain McCalman is right that the world will always appreciate and take care of such a precious part of our world.
Carolyn Mck
Non-fiction is not really my bag but I did find a lot of interest in this book about Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The writer structures his material well, dealing with the history, the science and the people who have loved, lived in and sought to understand this natural wonder. He ends, not unexpectedly, with a warning that the dangers to the future of the Reef reflect dangers to the survival of the human race itself. But polemic does not dominate this work of research, respect and wonder.
Aug 28, 2014 Irene rated it really liked it
This was an engrossing read! It had history, interesting characters and easily - digestible scientific information! I grew up near the Great Barier Reef and found this book fascinating! I highly recommmend this book!
Oct 05, 2014 Curt rated it really liked it
I gave it a four because the parts that were excellent made up for a couple of the biographical sketches that dragged for me.
Karen Gault
Dec 20, 2014 Karen Gault rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book weaves together natural history, anthropology, marine biology, and rich biographies into a masterpiece that flows wondrously from cover to cover. I do not get as much time these days to read literature this rich, so immersing myself into the world of the Great Barrier Reef was exquisitely satisfying. I hope that the book leads many readers to care about the Reefs enough to work toward saving them from extinction, as we are saving ourselves from disaster. Ian McCalman is a master storyt ...more
Jude Grebeldinger
the Great Barrier Reef
Penny Stroud
Jun 03, 2016 Penny Stroud rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting well written book about coral reefs and Australian environmental history
Bill Wells
Nov 09, 2014 Bill Wells rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a very entertaining book, as well as informative. A great deal of the history it presents has a personal feel through the use of letters and personal accounts. I must say I was surprised at how engaging it was.
Sep 13, 2015 Nina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While this book was an interesting combination of the scientific and colonial history of The Great Barrier Reefs (told through the stories/experiences of sailors, artists, scientists, and more), the writing style was a bit dull. It’s not written with a mainstream audience in mind, but interesting nonetheless and would, from what I can gather, be very useful to scholars of the field.
There's nothing to compare this book to- I appreciated the author's perspective and the natural history catalog of the Great Barrier Reef. The writing itself was a bit dry but otherwise an excellent read.
Pat Tummons
Dec 19, 2013 Pat Tummons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating history of the Great Barrier Reef, from the time of Captain Cook to the present.
Christine D
Apr 09, 2016 Christine D rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get into the writing style. I scanned through most of it.
Clare Cannon
Nov 09, 2014 Clare Cannon marked it as goodreadingguide-com  ·  review of another edition
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Iain McCalman is an award-winning professor at the , where he lives. He has served as president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and director of the Humanities Research Centre at ANU. He lives in Sydney.
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“This book is a story of encounters between Reef peoples and places, ideas, and environments, over more than two centuries, beginning with James Cook’s bewildered voyage through a coral maze and ending with the searing mission of reef scientist John “Charlie” Veron to goad us to act over the impending death of the Reef.” 0 likes
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