My friend Chris (my yoga teacher, not my piano teacher) had been talking about this book and then it popped up on Brotherhood Books. The subtitle of the book is A Passionate History, and Iain McCalman obviously does feel a passionate enthusiasm for the extraordinary natural wonder that is Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and its history.
McCalman has structured the book in twelve stories, each focused on an individual or a group who interacted with the reef in some way -- mostly white naturalists, colonists or ecologists, though McCalman is careful to acknowledge and pay tribute to the long interdependence of Australia's Indigenous peoples with the reef.
McCalman brings a sense of wonder and awe to the history of the reef which made me long to see it with my own eyes -- I have never visited the reef and I fear now I never will. The reef has been, and is being, irreparably damaged by climate change, a sorry development discussed in the final chapter (and possibly the impetus for the whole book). This book is seven years old, and things have only got worse.
Younger readers will enjoy Kirsty Murray and David Hartley's Strangers on Country, which tells some of the same stories of shipwreck and rescue canvassed here. They really are incredible tales!