Thursday, December 01, 2022

Book Review - Galápagos: A Natural History - Princeton University Press

 


     I received two books on Galápagos from Princeton University Press at the same time, the Tui De Roy bird guide reviewed in my last post, and this comprehensive tome on the entire natural history of the island archipelago.
     Both are outstanding.
     John Kricher and Kevin Loughlin have a depth of experience and knowledge of Galápagos that is hard to beat. The book is written in an easily readable style, yet does not lack in scholarship for all that. It is even whimsical at times. Who could fail to appreciate the delicious image of a Marine Iguana expelling salt as being attired with "a kind of cephalic margarita-like decoration"?
     Throughout its almost 500 pages the book delivers all that you could possibly wish to know, with suggestions for further reading when a more in-depth investigation is warranted.
     In fact, it covers not only the natural history of the "Enchanted Isles" but its human history too, most of which has not been benevolent, with some species driven to extinction by anthropogenic rapaciousness.         Kricher came up with the wonderful notion of titling each chapter with a quote from Charles Darwin, the single personage most indeliby associated with Galápagos. The first chapter introduces us to Darwin's well-known comment that "Nothing could be less inviting." The barren lava fields and arid islands lacking in vegetation did nothing to incite his affection.
     But each island is unique in terms of its vegetation and vertebrate (and other) species, and the magic lies behind the first impression.
     Early buccaneers had found the archipelago a rich source of protein and the populations of giant tortoises were depleted in short order. The very confiding nature of Galápagos animals was their downfall, never having been exposed to human slaughter, greed and wanton indifference to other species. They have not lost this appealing characteristic, a source of delight for visitors; fortunately they are now protected and contemporary tourists seek to respect and enjoy wildlife, not to exploit it.
          Kricher covers the evolutionary forces that have shaped the wildlife of Galápagos, and devotes 29 pages to the birds known as Darwin's Finches and their central role in the understanding of ancestry and divergence, with due recognition to the seminal research of Peter and Rosemary Grant on Daphne Major. 
     The seas around Galápagos are critical to the survival of species such as Flightless Cormorant, Galápagos Penguin, Marine Iguana and others, yet even in this remote area of the vast ocean, plastic pollution is a huge concern. "Dimethyl sulphide, and related chemicals are detectable by seabirds and are used as signals that food is available." Plastic wastes emit the same odour and birds are tricked into devouring plastic. The Waved Albatross "is considered critically endangered because of the increased risk from fishing boats, oceanic trash and potential climate change bringing more frequent severe El Niño events." 
     I am enjoined by potential copyright infringement from reproducing pictures in the book, but page 368 depicts shocking images of small islands of floating plastic bottles tossed overboard from boats illegally fishing in the waters aound the archipelago. Laws are only as good as the ability and the will to enforce them.
     The book concludes with an island-by-island tour so that a visitor knows what to expect, and how to maximize the experience of a lifetime. If you are a birder, for example, make sure that your tour includes Genovesa.

Irritations:
 
     It is with some sadness that I find ever more frequently of late that books are inadequately edited and typographical mistakes and factual errors are more common that they should be. Is the function of an editor less rigorous than it used to be? I don't know.

P. 141 In the first paragraph the noun "breath" is used twice when the verb "breathe" should have been.

P. 217 The genus Phoebrastria is not italicized as it should be. The specific epithet irrorata is correct.

P. 220 "Seabirds such as albatross have long and narrow w is the most critical for producing lift." Given the context of the discussion I know what is meant but the sentence is both confusing and incomplete.

P. 243 The author refers to impressive shorebird journeys as "long migratory perambulations." Perambulation means to go for a walk. Perhaps peregrination is the word that should have been used. The same incorrect use of perambulation is found on page 248.

P. 268 On the fifth line from the bottom Setophaga aestiva is not italicized whereas in the same paragraph further down it is. The scientific name for Mangrove Warbler is shown as Setophaga pechia; it should be Setophaga petechia.

     There is another egregious error too, but unfortunately I omitted to note the page number. I can't remember whether it concerns style or facts, and it would be unchivalrous of me to re-read the whole book merely to find it.

     Despite sloppy editing, this is a wonderful book, well conceived and brimming with information. There is a good deal of concern that visits to Galápagos should be restricted and possibly curtailed entirely. I have mixed feelings about this; people will only love what they know, and we need international advocacy for these unique islands. Science should always triumph over politics and a strong corps of advocates may be all that stands between unrestricted fishing, increased population and other ills associated with  burgeoning humanity and its excesses.
    If you are fortunate enough to enjoy a visit to this mythical place take this book with you. It will tell you all that you need to know.

Galápagos: A Natural History Second Edition
John C. Kricher and Kevin Loughlin
US$39.95 - ISBN: 9780691217246 
496 pages - 5.875 x 8.25 inches (14.69 x 20.63 cm)
665 colour illustrations and seven black-and-white illustrations - 4 maps
Publication date: 29 November, 2022    
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.

49 comments:

  1. A very beautiful name: The enchanted islands.

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  2. Hello David, sounds like a great book. I would love to visit the Galapagos Island and see the wildlife there. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day and week ahead. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

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    1. If you contact either of the authors, Eileen, I am sure they would be happy to book you on their next tour.

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  3. Contrary to my comment on your previous book review with Galapagos as the subject matter, David, when I said that I felt the need to focus on books relating to places that I am likely to visit in the remains of this life, I might just buy this out of interest as it sounds fascinating. If I do, I will try not to get too upset about the failings in the editorial process.

    Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

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    1. Armchair exploration has its own rewards, Richard.

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  4. Buenos días, querido amigo, debe ser una magnífica edición a pesar de los errores encontrados. El mero hecho de ser un libro sobre las Galápagos, esas encantadoras, entrañables y misteriosas islas, ya entraña un plus de belleza y misterio.
    Muchas gracias por su presentación y por tu buena reseña sobre el mismo.
    Un gran abrazo estimado, amigo y compadre David. Siempre un placer el leerte profesor.

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  5. Oh the Galapagos Islands ... from a young child I have learned and heard about the islands and Darwin. I expect I will never have the chance to go there, but have viewed many documentaries on them and the wildlife. Sad, isn't it, how man leaves destruction and waste in his path. We are the worst enemies of nature while singing it's praise ... will man ever learn or even care to learn. The Book looks very interesting and if I should buy it, I will come back and copy all of your edits so I can get it right. And, I will keep a watchful eye for the edit you missed :) Thank you, once again, David for guiding us to another good read. Stay warm, David, it is making out to be a long, cold winter.

    Andrea @ From the Sol

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    1. A long, cold winter is okay by me, Andrea. It is the hot, steamy summers with hordes of biting insects I find unpleasant.

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  6. I thought that critter winked at me, but I think it’s because I was scrolling on my iPad. I agree that editing is less careful now. I wonder if it is due to the general shortage of workers.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this wonderful book

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  8. Otro precioso libro. Gracias David. Un abrazo.

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  9. I would LOVE to spend time in your library.
    And a big sigh at woeful editing. It is particularly evident in self published books, but it seems the disease has spread.

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  10. Pity about the sloppy proof-reading. I always find it rather frustrating when you have to read something with mistakes in it.

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  11. Otro interesante libro, para tener en cuenta.

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  12. It seems a most intersting book to me David.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  13. My husband, the retired editor, can get quite apoplectic about sloppy editing, so I guess I won't recommend this book to him!

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  14. The book sounds wonderful but it's too bad about the poorr editing.

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  15. These both sound like great volumes. Have you visited the Galapagos David? I would like to go there. Perhaps one day I will. Happy December to you.

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    1. Hi Erika: I have birded in mainland Ecuador twice but I have not made it to Galápagos. I would dearly love to go and I have not given up on the idea, but it is really expensive.

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  16. Charles Darwin, a brilliant man in his day. Sound like a good book and there should be no errors, guess someone wasn't doing their job correctly.

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  17. That "brilliant man in his day" changed the world!

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  18. Another very interesting book about the Galapagos - and it sounds like this is well worth to read even without going there. I understand the reasoning for your mixed feelings about tourism there - I still think it should be restricted since tourism almost always has a negative impact on the environment. Even "eco tourism" produces trash, people have to travel there and there are too many humans who just don't know how to behave in nature (or in general, for that matter). - Sloppy editing frustrates me to no end. Once I even stopped reading a book because the editing was so bad (or non-existent) that it took out the pleasure of reading.

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    1. If you wish to be an armchair visitor to Galápagos, Carola, this is the book for you.

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  19. First let me say that you are such a force in your field and the books your introduce to us are not only interesting but to learn and help our environment. On editing. For many many years I wrote for magazines. I found that older well educated ( and differently educated) editors were better than the younger editors. I think there is a lack of knowledge and a work load that doesn't allow thoroughness. Not to mention the rush to get books on the sales floor. Either way, it ruins a book. Thank you for joining FFO.

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  20. Wow ... I must look here to get this book in Germany. Very interesting. I thought, if I couldn`t travel in each country, I can read about in a book ... or see a documentaion in TV. There are fantastic films on TerraX, or of the BBC.

    Thankyou for sharing ... I enjoyed reading.

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  21. A shame the editing wasn't a little better!
    However, it sounds a very good book.

    All the best Jan

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  22. Hi David
    I know you have a love for reading and I presume collecting of books? I have to say that I am very fond of my collection of Field Guides, although I tend only to have those that are relevant to my own trips, or those that I find on the sales shelves.
    Poor editing on the BBC website will take some beating, sloppy at best and often incorrect.
    I blame the watered down versions of everyone's roles in the workplace, with a lock of responsibility and accountability.

    Keep well

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    1. You are correct on both counts, Dave. Books are my holy icons, Dave!

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  23. Hi David - I'd love to visit ... and do hope that at some stage you can get there ... though the best times would have been 50 or more years ago. There was a tv programme some years ago - which continues to resonate with me ... pre the Americas being joined and how species moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific ... it was fascinating.

    I'd love to look at the book - but do understand about the errors that occur more and more now-a-days ... there seems to be a lack of knowledge, and a lack of wanting to verify things ... it's so easy to do in today's age ... and I'm amazed at how lazy people are to learn.

    I remembered - we had someone from Marine Conservation Society on the south coast come and give us a talk about the challenges in the seas - he is described by friends and colleagues as the 'sea champion' for the MCS and gave us some horrifying figures ... about the plastic in the oceans ...

    There was something else ... but I've forgotten - nope remembered! Cheers and enjoy the winter wonderland - Hilary

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    1. Plastic in the oceans is a nightmare becoming more terrifying with each passing day.

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  24. Another interesting book. Someday, I hope you will share a photo of your library. I knew you were a book lover when you told me you had a copy of Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 5, Barn Owls to Hummingbirds. 😊 Do you have the full set of Handbook of Birds of the World? Reading your description of Galápagos, A Natural History, sent me off to research more about Darwin’s Finches. Found this little nugget: “Due to the absence of other species of birds, the finches adapted to new niches. The finches' beaks and bodies changed allowing them to eat certain types of foods such as nuts, fruits, and insects.” While the basic tenets of Charles Darwin suggest that random mutations occur, it would seem to me that the Finches evolution was guided by an intelligence that allowed the birds to survive by adapting to consume the types of food available.

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    1. Hi John: I have five volumes of "Handbook of Birds of the World." They are magnificent works, but very expensive, and I have bought mine on line or at a secondhand book seller. They rarely become available, however, people who acquire them hang on to them like crown jewels it seems. I hope to get more of them, but time will tell!

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    2. And maybe soon I'll take pictures of my library!

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  25. The book sounds great.
    Too bad about the poor editing.
    Have a great weekend, David.

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  26. What a good book review. I find a lot of errors in the ebooks I read. They jump out at me! I don't think young people learn good grammar in school. It's a shame!

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    1. Young people may not learn good grammar in school, but you would think that for a professional editor it would be an essential requirement, wouldn't you?

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  27. This is an amazing review, David. I was delighted to read such a well written and informative review. It's obviously too bad the errors have to spoil the book. I find errors everywhere, even in my own writings (which are contained to my blog). Editors need to hire individuals like you and me to proof these types of books.

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  28. I hear you on the editing. A friend, a successful author, was horrified when her most recent book had a glaring error in that a baby she states on one page as being a boy, transforms 5 pages later into a girl. Any copy editor should have caught it. I am editing at the moment and it's so intensely time consuming that after reading your post on this important book decided that the profit-hungry publishers are not paying for good editors and hoping the public won't catch the errata. Or if they do, the book, being used, is worth zero.
    XO
    WWW

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  29. Jesteś wnikliwym recenzentem. Czytam wiele książek i też zauważam w nich błedy autora i redakcyjne. Szkoda, bo taka książka to dużo ciężkiej pracy, a takie błędy psują całość. Dziękuję za opis tej książki.

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  30. Looks like a good read and a place worth visiting.

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  31. Un lugar que sería muy agrable de visitar. Y eso que por los libros y Dumentales de tv conocemos algo de ellos. Gracias David
    Que paséis un buen domingo.
    Abrazos.

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  32. That cover! What a face! I agree that people really appreciate a situation more when they actually visit and see with their own eyes. I would love to go to Galapagos someday. You should freelance as an editor!

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We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.

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