Thursday, October 06, 2005

Coral wonder

Today was the first time I looked at older editions of Charles Darwin's Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (first edition 1842, third edition 1889). The map showing the distribution of different kinds of coral reefs (atolls, barrier and fringing ) and their distance from active volcanoes illustrates his central thesis brilliantly. And the plates showing the resemblance in form between barrier coral reefs surrounding mountinous islands and those around atolls or lagoon islands are beautifully executed. You seldom see this quality of draftmanship in twentieth and twenty-first century work.

At the beginning of the book Darwin quotes Francois Pyrard de Laval from 1605: "C'est une merueille de voir chacun de ces atollons, enuironne d'un grand banc de pierre tout autour, n'y ayant point d'artifice humain".

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