James Hamilton-Paterson

Exit, Coral

The Reef: A Passionate History – The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change

By

Scribe 336pp £20 order from our bookshop

Since 1770, when Captain Cook blundered into it in Endeavour and came to grief, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has gone from a navigator’s nightmare through being a World Heritage treasure to its present status of moribund paradise. On the way it had to overcome its early 19th-century reputation as the lair of savage Aboriginals. Thanks to Cook’s murder in Hawaii and lurid stories of cannibalism by survivors of shipwrecks on the Reef, the newspaper-reading public was cheerfully predisposed to view the 1,400-mile length of the Reef and the Torres Strait as a death zone to sailors, as fatally treacherous to ships as the spear-throwing locals were to their crews.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter