Vanished Islands and Hidden Continents of the Pacific
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288pp. October 2008
Vanished Islands and Hidden Continents of the Pacific
Author: Nunn, Patrick D.;
Islands—as well as entire continents—are reputed to have disappeared in many parts of the world. Yet there is little information on this subject concerning its largest ocean, the Pacific. Over the years, geologists have amassed data that point to the undeniable fact of islands having disappeared in the Pacific, a phenomenon that the oral traditions of many groups of Pacific Islanders also highlight. There are even a few instances where fragments of Pacific continents have disappeared, becoming hidden from view rather than being submerged. In this scientifically rigorous yet readily comprehensible account of the fascinating subject of vanished islands and hidden continents in the Pacific, the author ranges far and wide, from explanations of the region’s ancient history to the meanings of island myths. Using both original and up-to-date information, he shows that there is real value in bringing together myths and the geological understanding of land movements.

A description of the Pacific Basin and the "ups and downs" of the land within its vast ocean is followed by chapters explaining how—long before humans arrived in this part of the world—islands and continents that no longer exist were once present. A succinct account is given of human settlement of the region and the establishment of cultural contexts for the observation of occasional catastrophic earth-surface changes and their encryption in folklore. The author also addresses the persistent myths of a "sunken continent" in the Pacific, which became widespread after European arrival and were subsequently incorporated into new age and pseudoscience explanations of our planet and its inhabitants. Finally, he presents original data and research on island disappearances witnessed by humans, recorded in oral and written traditions, and judged by geoscience to be authentic. Examples are drawn from throughout the Pacific, showing that not only have islands collapsed, and even vanished, within the past few hundred years, but that they are also liable to do so in the future.

32 illus., 31 maps
A Latitude 20 Book

"Nunn is to be congratulated for a book that makes a very valuable addition to our knowledge of the Pacific Basin, and one that is particularly apposite at the present time with the growing debate about the future of some island communities threatened by a possible rise in sea level. He has deliberately set out to write the book in an easily read style, with the few technical terms explained, so that it can be appreciated by a wide audience. His aim has been successful in that I found myself looking forward to reading the next chapter almost as if it were a good story book—as indeed it is." —Journal of Pacific History (44:2, September 2009)

"This delightful book examines the nature of vanished and vanishing islands of the vast Pacific Ocean. Oceanic geoscientist Nunn (Univ. of the South Pacific, Fiji) blends the geologic origin and development of specific islands with the history of their human settlement. He explains in fascinating ways how the local folklore and myths, recorded in oral and written traditions, are frequently grounded in natural phenomena, such as submarine eruptions, earthquakes, slumping, tsunamis, rising seas, and the like. The writing is engaging and personal, and the science is clear and accessible. Its 11 chapters include black-and-white photographs, maps, and figures, as well as copious notes, several appendixes, and about 575 references. Because of the book’s island focus, this reviewer expected that some of the chapters would be somewhat repetitive; they are not. This is truly a fine, engaging read. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice (April 2009)

Author: Nunn, Patrick D.;
Patrick D. Nunn is professor of oceanic geoscience at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.
Read the table of contents and/or the introduction (PDF).



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