In Throwim Way Leg
, Australia-based mammologist-raconteur Tim Flannery recalls scientific expeditions in the wilds of New Guinea that convey both the thrill of discovery and the negotiations necessary to bridge huge clashes of cultures. A world expert on New Guinea's fauna, Flannery has discovered 20 new species during his two decades of research. Yet his ability to convey unalloyed adventure in his taletelling makes these scientific expeditions read more like hair-raising, funky Redmond O'Hanlon-style travels than disciplined, scholarly field trips. Energy and danger run high.
Terrific thunderstorms and aircraft mishaps rattle Flannery during his travels. Yet the most memorable quality of Throwim Way Leg is Flannery's incorporation of humans into the natural world he writes about, often contrasting the jungled New Guinea denizens with stark modern technologies. He writes rich profiles of those he has met, and his images are memorable and meaningful: crowds of people gaping at a single television set; the remote landscape of Mt. Albert Edward dotted with cattle, Swiss chalets, and the smoky fires of the Goilala people; the malnourished Yapsiei greeting him reeking of the "sweet, sickly smell" of grile, a form of ringworm.
Ultimately, Flannery looks ahead and sees that the age of discovery is not at all complete in New Guinea, as so much remains unknown. But, in an often-told tale, modern political forces are at work, reshaping those unique natural and cultural environments that Throwim Way Leg explores with such vigor. --Byron Ricks
From Publishers Weekly
This energetic fusion of natural science and anthropology caused the Times Literary Supplement to declare that in Flannery "Australia has found its own Stephen Jay Gould." Indeed, Flannery's book is, like Gould's work, erudite and informing. But Flannery (The Future Eaters, 1994), an Australian biologist who specializes in mammalogy, gives us a much more personal take in this memoir of his scientific and cross-cultural adventures during 15 expeditions to New Guinea?undertaken in order to research the many species of mammals that exist on this large island, which he refers to as "one of the world's last frontiers." His accounts of crossing the rugged island terrain and enduring onslaughts from snakes, bees, flies and mosquitoes are vivid yet understated. During his explorations, Flannery documented many new species of mammals and discovered the presence of a bat that had previously been considered extinct. The best parts of the book are those in which Flannery tells of his forays into remote villages. His descriptions of the indigenous peoples he met and worked with are sympathetic and often very funny (with the humor frequently at his own expense), particularly the tales of the cannibals of Yominbip and Betavip. Flannery accepted funding from the Indonesian PT Freeport mining company, which operates in Irian Jaya, but that doesn't stop him from voicing his concern that the presence of Freeport has led to civil unrest, violence, racial tensions and environmental havoc. The title comes from New Guinea Pidgin; referring to a first step, it means "to go on a journey." Readers would do well to follow Flannery on this one.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.