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Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this dazzling volume, Safina, a MacArthur award recipient, recounts his travels to remote portions of the northwest Hawaiian Islands to witness albatross breeding season, during which parent birds fly across entire oceans as much as 25,000 miles to hunt sufficient food to nourish their single chicks. Albatross survival, Safina (Song for the Blue Ocean) shows, is increasingly vulnerable to modern conditions; indeed, the shameful history of albatross exploitation, when the magnificent birds were all but exterminated in some areas for their valued eggs and feathers, is but an early chapter in the struggle against perils that now include entrapment in commercial fishing nets, ingesting plastic trash that washes ashore in vast quantities on their nesting islands and depletion of food stocks due to global warming. By turns rhapsodic, scolding and mystical, the book discusses issues that affect other seabirds, seals, sharks and sea turtles. But the albatross ("a great symphony of flesh, perception, bone, and feathers") remains its primary focus. Clinically minded readers may question Safina's tendency to psychologize animals or introduce mythological elements into his narrative, and some sections of the book resonate with more romantic passion than science. Still, Safina's encyclopedic knowledge and spirited prose provide a stunningly intimate portrait of an environment. (May 14)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The recipient of a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship and a Pew Scholar's Award in Conservation and the Environment, Safina (Song for the Blue Ocean) attempts to "tell a story of struggle and hope and the power of sheer persistence and of life's resilience." In narrating this tale, he has chosen as his guide a Laysan albatross named Amelia, "a great symphony of flesh, perception, bone, and feathers, composed of long movements and set to ever-changing rhythms of light, wind, and water." With the author and Amelia, the reader is taken on a tour of the oceans and introduced to many other kinds of ocean wildlife as well. The vice-president for marine conservation at the National Audubon Society, Safina focuses on the qualities of peace and tranquility in nature rather than on the "eat or be eaten" aspect that most people see. The result is a refreshing approach to natural history writing that is recommended for general readers. Mary J. Nickum, Lakewood, CO
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805062297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805062298
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In my life and my writing I explore our relationship with nature, and the relationship between nature and human dignity. Much of my work emphasizes the sea. My more recent work also probes the capacity for thought and emotion in free-living non-human animals.

My early studies of seabirds and fishes earned a PhD in ecology from Rutgers University.
In the 1990s, I helped lead campaigns to ban high-seas driftnets, re-write U. S. federal fisheries law, work toward international conservation of tunas, sharks, and other fishes, and achieve passage of a United Nations global fisheries treaty.

During that time I turned increasingly to writing, for the power in words. "Song for the Blue Ocean," was chosen a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; it won the Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. My second book, Eye of the Albatross, won the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing and was chosen by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as the year's best book for communicating science. The View From Lazy Point; A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, won the Orion Award for best book on the relationship between humans and nature. It's main conclusion is that nature and human dignity require each other.

My book about the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout, A Sea In Flames, chronicles the series of bad decisions leading to the blowout, and the emotional topography of the season of anguish that followed, including the often inane responses.

Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, is about just that.

My writing has been supported by fellowships from Pew, World Wildlife Fund, and Guggenheim, by a MacArthur prize, and generous foundation grants and gifts.

My short pieces appear regularly in The New York Times, Audubon Magazine, Orion Magazine, National Geographic News and Views, Huffington Post, and CNN.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By James D. DeWitt VINE VOICE on February 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
From time to time, Safina does tend to anthropomorphize, but it does make the book more accessible. And at other times he steps back just a little too far from the role he has written for himself. But there is nothing else to criticize in this excellent book.
Five hours northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands by propjet there are series of islands and atolls that are the breeding grounds of tens of thousands of sea birds. Of the many species of birds that breed there, the largest, the one that must be wrapped in the most superlatives, is the Laysan Albatross. And one Laysan Albatross, that Safina names Amelia, is the principle subject and unifying thread of this book.
From Coelridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" to the horrifying pollution of our ocean, Amelia is the eye through which we view her astonishing world. Amelia is tagged with a small satellite transmitter, and Safina includes maps showing the travels Amelia makes to feed herself and her chick. The distances beggar the imagination. Through her eyes and her journeys, Safina touches on the host of issues and breathtaking wonders of the the fauna of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
It's a tour de force, and I recommend it to you.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a vice-president of Audubon, the founder of their Living Oceans program, a contributor on fishery management policy-making, the author of SONG FOR THE BLUE OCEAN, and an early life as a fisherman, Carl Safina is certainly not simply "winging it" when it comes to discussing oceans and their environmental health.
This book is beautifully written and is a passionate call for us to care for our oceans. It offers all the following: natural history, study of a bird species, travelogue, environmental science, oceanography, cultural and economic commentary, and finally, a geography and history lesson. Starting where he always does, Safina begins with a focus on his main interest - the huge ecosystem that is the worlds oceans. We take the perspective of the masters of the oceanic skies - the albatross - and Safina is creative in using a tagged and satellite-tracked individual bird "Amelia" to give us a unique look through the EYE OF THE ALBATROSS.
Safina is somewhat of a romantic visionary and has a gift for the poetic phrase. The images however are not all about beautiful seascapes, tropical islands and exotic ports-of-call. Hardly. His description of a feeding scene between a mother albatross and her chick at a nesting colony is literally gut-wrenching. After being fed by its parent on regurgigated squid "the chick begs for more. The adult arches her neck and retches again. Nothing comes". Although Safina has a penchant for criticizing human economics and uses this case to do so, we can't help but see his point as he continues. "Slowly comes the surreal sight of a green plastic toothbrush emerging from the bird's gullet. With her neck arched, the mother cannot fully pass the straight brush. She tries several times to disgorge it, but can't.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
from the May 16, 2002 edition - [...]
By Colin Woodard
Humans and albatrosses have a lot in common. We both live for many decades, possibly a century. Our reproductive patterns are similar. Albatrosses take as long as 13 years to mature, engage in courtships that can last two years or more, and raise a single chick every other year (or three to four years for some species.) Albatrosses, like ourselves, are found from the Antarctic to the Far North and most places in between.
Of course, we spend our time on earth very differently. Albatrosses spend 95 percent of it at sea, usually in flight. They come ashore only to breed and nest, and even then they are constantly flying off on 2,000- to 3,000-mile foraging runs to collect each feeding for their chick. They can fly for many days without stopping, sleeping on the wing, wandering from tropical to subpolar seas in the course of a single foraging run.
Carl Safina wondered what we might learn about the world if we could see it from their perspective. Now, after shadowing these great birds by foot, ship, and satellite, he has painted a beautiful, awe-inspiring tableau of our world as you've never seen it: an interconnected universe of wind and waves, sun-blasted islands, teeming polar seas, broad-winged birds, and the far-reaching effects of civilization.
"Almost everything about the albatross is superlative and extreme," Safina writes. They're huge, with an 11-foot wingspan. Masters of long-distance flight, they use less energy soaring over a stormy sea than they do while sitting quietly on their nests. They endure equatorial heat and ferocious Arctic storms, sometimes on the same feeding trip. And they travel far: By 50 years of age, a typical albatross has logged nearly 4 million miles.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
From Booklist:
*STARRED REVIEW* Safina, Carl. Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival. May 2002. 416p. illus. index. Holt/John Marcae, (0-8050-6228-9). 598.4.
The Wandering Albatross, a magnificent seabird built for gliding and endurance, travels millions of miles over the course of its long life as it wings from the tiny tropical islands on which it breeds to the subarctic waters in which it feeds and back again. Safina, an insightful, reform-minded, and splendidly literary scientist in the manner of Rachel Carson, employs one particular albatross, dubbed Amelia and outfitted with a transmitter for satellite tracking, as his guide to the ocean world in this riveting marine chronicle. As he did in SONG FOR THE BLUE OCEAN (1997), Safina, a MacArthur "genius" and Lannan Literary Award winner, explicates and celebrates the wonders of the sea, and details and decries our species' destructive impact on it. "Everything people are doing to the ocean, albatrosses feel," Safina writes, describing such wrethced sights as adult seabirds being pulled to their death by fishing nets and hooks, or regurgitating toothbrushes and cigarette lighters along with food for hungry chicks. But Safina contrasts a sobering overview of past and present abominations with lively accounts of the corrective endeavors of enlightened marine biologists to support his optimistic view of an ecologically sound future. Communication is key to positive change, and Safina's superlative report is both catalyst and inspiration.
-Donna Seaman
//
In this beautifully written work, Safina blends history and science
to offer, in a seamlessly telescoped style, first an ecosystem, then a
species, and finally one bird, the last as compellingly drawn as the
protagonist of a novel. The general reader cannot fail to be pulled deeply
into natural history by reading it.
--Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
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