Natural World, House Notes, June 1992

The World of Albatrosses and The World of Penguins
Chris Gaskin, and Neville Peat, with photographs by Kim Westerskov,
Hodder and Stoughton, Auckland, 1991, each $19.95

Those who have visited the Taiaroa Head Royal albatross colony and been fortunate enough to see the birds waddle in an ungainly fashion to the edge of the cliff, outstretch their wings and be swept into flight by a boisterous wind will treasure the sight as one of the natural world’s wonders. Chris Gaskin and Neville Peat, with superb photographs by Kim Westerskov, have captured the essence of this aristocrat amongst sea birds in an exceptionally concise informative and readable account of their history, life cycle and prodigious powers of flight. The fidelity and quality of the reproductions and the innate compelling aura of the birds themselves make this an outstandingly attractive book. Far below the albatrosses as they circle Antarctica are the denizens of another world, that of the penguins, so plentiful in New Zealand that they have even been awarded the honour of a roadsign to themselves around Wellington harbour: ‘Danger, Penguins crossing’. The same team are again just as masterly. Their book ends with a question, ‘Do penguins deserve protection for more than tourist reasons?’ which they answer themselves. ‘Most people would say yes. Penguins are superb examples of adaptation and evolution, they fill an important role in ocean ecology, and the world would be a poorer place without these lively, personable and yes, inspiring creatures’. The sociable and demonstrative qualities of the most photographed breed of penguins, the Adelies, look markedly human as they ‘nervously’ enter the sea at Cape Bird, Ross Island. This intriguing guide to ‘The Feathered Swimming Machine’ is very highly recommended.

 

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