Prowling the edges of science with insight and sensitivity, Lyall Watson maintains that there is a truth to be found behind every seemingly impossible legend. The best-selling author of Supernature and Gifts of Unknown Things, Watson takes us on a journey through prehistoric burial sites on the beaches of South Africa, ancient ritual iron mines in Swaziland, and present-day villages in Indonesia and New Guinea inhabited by man-eating dragons and headhunters. In these and other extraordinary travels we encounter phenomenon that defy traditional scientific explanation. Watson looks beyond the scientific "facts" and helps us--through his own remarkable discoveries--to see the poetry and wonder of the natural world.
A natural-history classic. In 12 delightful essays, the author, who holds advanced degrees in marine biology, anthropology and ethology, peels away layers of stale truths about nature and the natural sciences, exploring new trains of thought. Watson's realm is "the soft edges of science," where Western empiricism meets the kind of ancient convictions found in virtually every culture, which he suspects reflect an older, more natural way of knowing. Watson works both kinds of perception into the fabric of natural history. He ponders the Strandloopers (Afrikaans for "the beach walkers"), an extinct people with huge heads and tiny bodies who lived on the Skeleton Coast of West Africa. No traces of material culture have ever been found, and Watson suggests the Strandloopers found satisfaction in making ideas, rather than machines. Most anthropologists would consider the vanished Strandloopers an evolutionary failure; Watson concludes we have a lot to learn from them. He compares the Strandloopers favorably to modern man, so obsessed with reason and technology that we have invented implements that threaten our survival. Watson also contemplates the unique capabilities of crowds, from human crowds to flocks of birds and schools of fish, and gives credence to unorthodox theories that humans descended from an aquatic ape. In addition, he explores Komodo, the Indonesian island where dragons - monitor lizards more than 3 meters in length - still swallow men whole, and New Guinea, home of the Asmat, the headhunting tribe in whose midst Michael Rockefeller disappeared while collecting primitive art. Some useful insight emerges from each composition. Nature writing at its best. (Kirkus Reviews)