Unnatural History of the Sea

  • by Callum M. Roberts
  • Narrated by Callum M. Roberts
  • 12 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Humanity can make short work of the oceans' creatures. In 1741, hungry explorers discovered herds of Steller's sea cow in the Bering Strait, and in less than 30 years, the amiable beast had been harpooned into extinction. It's a classic story, but a key fact is often omitted. Bering Island was the last redoubt of a species that had been decimated by hunting and habitat loss years before the explorers set sail.

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What the Critics Say

"Thoughtful, inspiring, devastating, and powerful, Roberts' comprehensive, welcoming, and compelling approach to an urgent subject conveys large problems in a succinct and involving manner. Readers won't be able to put it down." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A great tale of the sea. Read it.

Even if you think you know what we've done to the oceans, the fact is, you probably don't.

Roberts does a great job making you aware of this in painstaking, but never laboured, detail.

Particularly interesting is the treatment of secular hero, and Darwin ally, Thomas Huxley, who managed to be hopelessly wrong about the interaction between natural systems and market forces not once, but twice, and who doubtlessly went to his grave thoroughly convinced that it was reality that was the party at fault! His high-handed, patronising treatment of witnesses at his inquiry is cringe-inducing, and gave me a new perspective on the man, and the foibles of intellectual arrogance.

Which, really, is the message of the book. Free markets in the oceans are a disaster. Marine parks and competent regulation are the solution.

At the very least you'll gain an insight into why your grandchildren ended up living off jellyfish...
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- bill doyle "Bloke who took to audiobooks in order to beguile long hours on the road travelling to photography gigs across his home state. Now addicted!"

Very engaging re: history, ecology, and policy

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This book is a vivid, excellently written chronicle of the concept of "shifting baselines", which is an important concept in ecology, conservation, and history. The descriptions of the abundance of marine abundance in decades and centuries past sound almost impossible in the present context of fisheries collapse and biodiversity loss. The author narrates the book, and brings a clear enjoyment to the work- even go so far as to create distinct voices for other "characters" (modern and historical persons quoted) in the book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, even those who might not think the subject matter is quite for them.


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- P. H. Jacobs

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-24-2010
  • Publisher: Caravan