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Throwim Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds-On the Track of Unknown Mammals in Wildest New Guinea (1999)

by Tim F. Flannery

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327979,997 (3.93)6
Tim Flannery is a scientist of international standing, a world expert on the fauna of New Guinea with twenty new species and seven books to his credit. In Throwim Way Leg, he takes us into the field and on an unforgettable journey into the heart of this mysterious and uncharted country. Flannery's scientific voyage leads him to places he never dreamed of: he camps among cannibals and befriends Femsep, a legendary warrior who led the slaughter of colonial whites decades before. He enters caves full of skeletons of long-extinct giant marsupials, scales mountains previously untouched by Europeans, and is nearly killed when tribespeople decide to take revenge for their prior mistreatment by his "clan" (wildlife scientists). And Flannery writes movingly of the fate of indigenous people in collision with the high-tech world of late-twentieth-century industry. In New Guinea pidgin, throwim way leg means to thrust out your leg on the first step of a long journey. Full of adventure, wit, and natural wonders, Flannery's narrative is just such a spectacular trip.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Maybe 3.5 stars. I loved learning about this land and ecology, but Flannery’s writing is skilled but uninspired. I don’t usually care about these things, but the pictures in the book are almost solely of people, including the author. Yet the book is full of detailed descriptions of extraordinary creatures and landscapes. I would have loved to see some of these things, but I’m guessing he limited photos to only images captured by himself or companions on the journeys. The narrative is a bit disjointed, following his explorations roughly chronologically, and I felt myself desiring a more cohesive narrative of the ecology, politics, differences between local cultures, and exploration of the island, rather than the disconnects vignettes of which the book is composed. Still, a lot of fun if you enjoy reading about exotic places. ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
Maybe 3.5 stars. I loved learning about this land and ecology, but Flannery’s writing is skilled but uninspired. I don’t usually care about these things, but the pictures in the book are almost solely of people, including the author. Yet the book is full of detailed descriptions of extraordinary creatures and landscapes. I would have loved to see some of these things, but I’m guessing he limited photos to only images captured by himself or companions on the journeys. The narrative is a bit disjointed, following his explorations roughly chronologically, and I felt myself desiring a more cohesive narrative of the ecology, politics, differences between local cultures, and exploration of the island, rather than the disconnects vignettes of which the book is composed. Still, a lot of fun if you enjoy reading about exotic places. ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
In 1982 I had the privilege of visiting my brother who was working as an aircraft engineer in Mt Hagen, on Papua New Guinea. One afternoon we travelled by Cessna to a nearby village, 10 minutes flight, but days walking, landing on the top of a grassy mountain ridge. We stayed the night, the darkest night I have ever experienced. Tim Flannery’s book Throwim Way Leg brings back to mind this tiny adventure. Flannery’s book is engrossing reading, describing not only his scientific research, but also the culture and environment he encountered in New Guinea - one which changing all too rapidly. I received this book as a Santathing selection - an inspired choice.
  rodneyvc | Dec 28, 2021 |
Interesting if at times slightly dry, and now slightly dated, recollection of a biologists explorations and field trips in the un-explored jungles of Papua New Guinea.

His specialty is mammals, of which the Tree-Kangeroo is perhaps the most unusual, however almost no animals actually feature in the book. He (or rather his native hunters) catch a lot of large rats of various species (I didn't realise there were that many different types of rat) and possums complete with Latin names, and at times he discovers species 'new to science' and gets to the name them. All of which were promptly eaten by his hosts. So most of the specimens he collected were bones and skin - and unusual state for modern biology which is more concerned with conservation than the museum preservation of type specimens. Many of these trips were in the 70s and 80s though so it so does highlight how things have changed. There's also a clear distinction between a biology researcher and an animal collector like Gerald Durrell, who's books are vastly more entertaining, and where the animals feature prominently, but the science is less evident.

Tim has obviously had quite some adventures over the course of many trips. However he's never quite made the jump from academic writing to pop-sci, and doesn't quite manage to convey the personalities involved, so some of the more adrenaline coursing moments are rendered with a careful understatement. He tells you about the various natives he became acquainted with, but rarely shows them as people and characters. The only passion evidenced at any point are the very last chapters when he's invited (at some expense) by the mining companies to conduct a survey of the otherwise inaccessible terrain surrounding the vast copper mines in the Indonesian controlled northern island. Here Tim becomes quite upset at the plight of the natives who've been displaced and otherwise disregarded by the mining corp.

Entertaining read, but could do with a slightly more personal touch. ( )
1 vote reading_fox | Jan 12, 2019 |
Tree-kangaroos, possums, and penis gourds. On the track of unknown mammals in wildest New Guinea
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
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Tim Flannery is a scientist of international standing, a world expert on the fauna of New Guinea with twenty new species and seven books to his credit. In Throwim Way Leg, he takes us into the field and on an unforgettable journey into the heart of this mysterious and uncharted country. Flannery's scientific voyage leads him to places he never dreamed of: he camps among cannibals and befriends Femsep, a legendary warrior who led the slaughter of colonial whites decades before. He enters caves full of skeletons of long-extinct giant marsupials, scales mountains previously untouched by Europeans, and is nearly killed when tribespeople decide to take revenge for their prior mistreatment by his "clan" (wildlife scientists). And Flannery writes movingly of the fate of indigenous people in collision with the high-tech world of late-twentieth-century industry. In New Guinea pidgin, throwim way leg means to thrust out your leg on the first step of a long journey. Full of adventure, wit, and natural wonders, Flannery's narrative is just such a spectacular trip.

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