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NEW BOOK LAUNCHED ON RESEARCH AND HISTORY OF SUB-ANTARCTIC ISLANDS

Front cover - Marion & Prince Edward - Africa's southern islands

A new book featuring the history, beauty and conservation of South Africa’s southernmost territories, Marion Island and Prince Edward Island, was recently launched by researchers at the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B).

The 176-page book of photographic splendour, Marion and Prince Edward – Africa’s southern islands, was co-authored by researchers at the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) at Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. The authors are Dr Aleks Terauds, an Australian Research Associate at the C·I·B; John Cooper, retired ornithologist and amateur historian but currently Research Associate at the C·I·B; Prof. Steven Chown, Director of the C·I·B; and Prof. Peter Ryan, ornithologist and author of bird field guides from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute. Passionate conservationists and world leaders in their respective fields, the four authors have more than eight decades’ experience as researchers on sub-Antarctic islands.

Marion and Prince Edward are tiny specks of land in the vast Southern Ocean which showcase some of the most remote and unique environments on the planet. On these two island outposts, some 1,400 km south of Cape Agulhas and nearly halfway to Antarctica, nature takes its course largely without the influences and pressures associated with human civilisation. South African researchers have been conducting research in the southern ocean for more than 60 years, from the time of the annexation of Marion Island and Prince Edward Island. Ever since, these inhospitable sub-Antarctic islands have served as the valuable outdoor classrooms of many of South Africa’s most authoritative researchers. Hundreds of leading scientific publications have resulted from this, including illuminating articles on invasive species and climate change in the region.

The publication of this book has now made this research more accessible to the layperson through, among other things, striking historical photos and evocative landscape scenes. The book provides the reader with an excellent overview of the islands’ fiery origins, their harsh climate, their human history, diversity of animals and plants, including the spectacular albatrosses, penguins and seals, and the future of conservation of these islands. The text is also illustrated by oil-paintings by Muizenberg artist Elizabeth Poulsom. Ryan and Terauds, together with Ryan Reisinger and Ben Dilley, were the principal photographers, and have collaborated on the book since 2009. Among the other photographers who also contributed are SU researchers Prof. Valdon Smith, Dr Justine Shaw and Ms Charlene Janion.

John Cooper explained that the book is dedicated to Allan Crawford and Bob Rand, members of the first expedition to Marion Island, who pioneered the documentation of the islands’ natural beauty and animal life. Crawford spearheaded the first South African expedition to Marion Island shortly after it was annexed in 1948. He compiled the first topographic map of the island and was the only expedition member who published a popular book about life on the island. Rand, member of the eighth expedition to the islands in 1951/1952, was the first scientist to explore the area and publish scientific articles about it. “He was also the first person to walk round the islands,” says Cooper.

According to Steven Chown, the book is one of the visually most striking products that he has ever collaborated on.

More about the authors:

  • Dr Aleks Terauds, as a member of Australian research teams, has undertaken considerable research on, among others, Macquarie Island and has published three other popular books on sub-Antarctica. He travelled to Marion Island for the first time in 2009 as a Research Associate of the Centre for Invasion Biology. www.aleksterauds.com

  • Mr John Cooper, a Research Associate of the Centre for Invasion Biology, is a retired ornithologist, formerly of the University of Cape Town. He is also an honorary officer of the “Agreement on the conservation of albatrosses and petrels”. He is currently writing about the history of sub-Antarctica. Cooper, who travelled to Marion Island for the first time in 1978, says that he tries his utmost to travel to the Prince Edward Islands every year. http://academic.sun.ac.za/cib/team_guest.asp

  • Professor Steven Chown is Director of the Centre for Invasion Biology (www.sun.ac.za/cib) at Stellenbosch University and has been conducting research on and about the various south-sea islands for the past 20 years. He was the first chairperson of the Prince Edward Islands Management Committee and received the international Martha T Muse Award for Science and Policy in Antarctica this year.

  • Professor Peter Ryan, of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/) at the University of Cape Town, has been doing research on the bird life of the Prince Edward Islands since 1984. He is well-known as the compiler of numerous field guides on Africa’s bird life.

Marion and Prince Edward - Africa’s Southern Islands is available from www.sun-e-shop.co.za