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Pacific: An Ocean of Wonders by Philip J. Hatfield


The first thing you notice about Pacific: An Ocean of Wonders is just how beautiful this book is. It’s a hardback with a cloth binding and the most stunning illustrations, maps and photographs. Some items from the British Library collection have been reproduced for the very first time. It’s visually very appealing, but it’s also a book packed full of information, showing how important the Pacific Ocean is, covering nearly a third of the surface of the globe and shaping the world and people around it.


The book is divided into three sections. The early history of human engagement in the Pacific. The period of Captain Cook and others, building their empires. And then the modern day, stretching from the late 19th century to today. The thing that really struck me is the diversity of the people of the Pacific: Japanese, Polynesian, Aboriginal Australians, Malay, coastal American First Nations and Aleut communities, as well as many other groups.


The rich history is explored through a variety of intriguing objects, and the entries cover trade, map making, whaling, flora and fauna, and the many vessels that have crossed the Pacific Ocean. Drinks and drinking culture, controlling the ‘Spice Islands’, religion, missionaries, pirates and exiles are all covered. We also learn about The South Sea Company, the figures of Rapa Nui, meeting James Cook, mutineers and how the Pacific impacted on the literary imagination. It also looks at the First and Second World Wars.


Pacific: An Ocean of Wonders is a richly detailed book that provides a fascinating account of the Pacific Ocean from past until present.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Bateman Books, RRP $49.99

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