'The Atlas of Remote Islands' - I was sold on the title alone, having fantasised about living on an uninhabited island. For a few extra dollars I opted for the large, hardcover version for the big maps to ponder over.
Opening up the atlas, the black fabric binding brought a sense of nostalgia; like an old classic you'd only find now, in a dusty antique store.
Back cover of the Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky.
The author, Judith Schalansky grew up in Berlin, when Germany was two separate nations. The idea of an East German travelling to other countries was as remote a concept, as the islands in this book.
She had no passport but did have an atlas and studied it in great detail. Fascinated by 'the lines, the colours and the names' of faraway places inspired Judith's love of cartography. She watched a documentary about the Galápagos Islands which ignited her passion for remote islands dotted around the world.
Some of the islands portrayed in the Atlas of Remote Islands.
As an adult, she researched places like Robinson Crusoe Island, Diego Garcia, Takuu and the aptly named Lonely Island, which eventually formed the Atlas of Remote Islands - Fifty Islands I have Never Set Foot On and Never Will.
Consider it both short stories and a usable atlas. Explorers like Darwin, Earhart, Cook, and Magellan all have a place here. Tales of shipwrecks, slavery, whaling, and hidden treasure combine to tell a history of lands born of the sea; some of which will soon return, lost forever more.
The book is full of useful facts about each island like:
If you've daydreamed about living on an island like in the novel, The Light Between Oceans; you'll find the page about how to apply to live on one in New Zealand, invaluable.
What this book does beautifully is turn fifty of the tiniest, seemingly insignificant blobs in the oceans, into real places full of intrigue and wonder. Transporting the reader to distant lands, some barren and cold; others idyllic and tropical, all remote.
It's divided up by oceans and there's a handy index at the back. For the detailed statistician, it includes a timeline of major events, current population, and languages spoken on each island.
Anyone with internet access could find information about these islands but the purpose of this book is to instigate curiosity from perusing maps in an atlas. Pouring over details like the shape of the land, the harbour entrance, and what towns there are, if any.
I fell in love with this book both in its ability to take me far away and the detail that went into designing it.
Saint Paul Island from the Atlas of Remote Islands.
Whilst overseas travel is accessible to many, it's reassuring that wild adventurous places are out there, inaccessible to the masses, to stoke the imagination of future explorers.
The 'Atlas of Remote Islands - Fifty Islands I have Never Set Foot On and Never Will' by Judith Schalansky is available in large hardcover (blue) for $40 and pocket sized softcover (yellow) for $28 at www.bookdepository.com. (I have searched local bookshops but did not find this book anywhere.)