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Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the…
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Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur (2006)

by Carl Safina

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"Magic is the simplicity of rightness" declares Carl Safina in this book devoted to the story of Dermochelys coriacea, the great Leatherback turtle, and nowhere is this more evident than in the book itself - an almost flawless blend of keen observation and heartfelt prose.

Survivors from the time of the dinosaurs, these giant sea turtles have been afloat for over 120 million years, only recently endangered by (what else?) human activity. Divided into two main sections, Voyage of the Turtle analyzes the current status of Leatherback communities in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, seeking to uncover the factors that have contributed to the very different condition of the two populations.

There is much here that will dishearten the reader, whether it is the wasteful nature of certain fishing practices, the seemingly endless capacity of government agencies to drag their feet when they should be more active, or the destruction caused by polution and overconsumption. But I was surprised and pleased to discover that this was by and large a hopeful book, focusing on the actions of the many scientists and activists who have made it their life's work to save these beautiful creatures.

It is also a marvelously well-written book, with many passages of striking beauty, in which Safina steps back and ponders the significance of the Leatherback - its connection to the environment, and to humanity:

"Turtles may seem to lack sense, but they don't do senseless things. They're not terribly energetic, yet they do not waste energy. Turtles don't have the intellect to form opinions about greed, oppression, superstition, or ideology, yet they don't inflict misery on themselves or other creatures. Turtles cannot consider what might happen, yet nothing turtles do threatens anyone's future. Turtles don't think about their next generation, but they risk and provide all they can to ensure that there will be one. Meanwhile, we profess to love our own offspring above all else, yet above all else it is they from whom we daily steal. We cannot learn to be more like turtles, but from turtles we could learn to be more human. That is the wisdom carried within one hundred million years of survival. What turtles could learn from us, I can't quite imagine."

I do not often read works of natural history, owing not to a lack of interest, but to the scarcity of available time. But I was so entranced by Safina's tale of these "ancient, ageless, great-grandparents of the world," who are like "a sudden remembrance of a world before memories," that I think I may have to make the time - starting with Safina's other titles. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 6, 2013 |
I read a lot of natural history. I enjoy it a great deal, and I find it gives me perspective on my own place in the world. I rarely close a natural history book in tears. This one had me weeping numerous times both in despair and in hope. There were times, reading Safina's lucid prose, when I thought perhaps the only thing we could do to save the turtles was to spread some targeted virulent human plague amongst ourselves. There were other times that the stories he told of conservationists made me proud and almost abashed to feel myself part of the species.

So. A masterful book which taught me much about the great oceangoing Leatherback turtle and garnered much edifying bycatch along the way. Highly recommended. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Carl Safina is a spirited and engaging ecologist who is enamored by language and aquatic life in equal measure. His examination of the habitat and history of sea turtles is also a personal travelogue, including diversions into the worlds of swordfishing, egg poaching, real estate development, longline regulations, and conservation advocacy. Sanfina seeks to draw a compelling portrait of the status of sea turtle populations as they currently exist in relation to the continuing threats to their survival posed by the commercial desires of human communities. The writing is often flowery and contemplative, yet remains enjoyable and informative throughout. ( )
  Narboink | Nov 20, 2010 |
This book is a loving tribute to an enigmatic, beautiful and ancient species. Safina chronicles the lives of the leatherback turtles, as well as the people who are committed to helping these creatures, from hatchling to their return to the beach to lay eggs. ( )
  DoraG | Oct 22, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805078916, Hardcover)

The story of an ancient sea turtle and what its survival says about our future, from the award-winning writer and naturalist

Though nature is indifferent to the struggles of her creatures, the human effect on them is often premeditated. The distressing decline of sea turtles in Pacific waters and their surprising recovery in the Atlantic illuminate what can go both wrong and right from our interventions, and teach us the lessons that can be applied to restore health to the world's oceans and its creatures. As Carl Safina's compelling natural history adventure makes clear, the fate of the astonishing leatherback turtle, whose ancestry can be traced back 125 million years, is in our hands.

Writing with verve and color, Safina describes how he and his colleagues track giant pelagic turtles across the world's oceans and onto remote beaches of every continent. As scientists apply lessons learned in the Atlantic and Caribbean to other endangered seas, Safina follows leatherback migrations, including a thrilling journey from Monterey, California, to nesting grounds on the most remote beaches of Papua, New Guinea. The only surviving species of its genus, family, and suborder, the leatherback is an evolutionary marvel: a "reptile" that behaves like a warm-blooded dinosaur, an ocean animal able to withstand colder water than most fishes and dive deeper than any whale.

In his peerless prose, Safina captures the delicate interaction between these gentle giants and the humans who are finally playing a significant role in their survival.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The story of an ancient sea turtle and what its survival says about our future. The decline of sea turtles in Pacific waters and their surprising recovery in the Atlantic illuminate what can go both wrong and right from human interventions, and teach us lessons that can be applied to restore health to the world's oceans. As naturalist Safina makes clear, the fate of the leatherback is in our hands. As scientists apply lessons learned in the Atlantic and Caribbean to other endangered seas, Safina follows leatherback migrations, including a journey from Monterey, California, to nesting grounds on the most remote beaches of Papua New Guinea.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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