ISBN : 9780199609642
This is a unique and delightfully engaging account by a leading tropical biologist of doing science at one of the last wild frontiers in the world. Vojtech Novotny is a highly respected Czech scientist. His widely cited work, of profound importance to ecology and evolution, is not done, like much modern science, in a lab full of gleaming apparatus. Instead, he chose as his 'laboratory' the remotest parts of Papua New Guinea, where he has established a research station. Supported by a team of Papuans whom he has trained up so that they can combine their wide and intimate knowledge of the plants and animals of their tropical forest with the knowledge of modern science, Novotny studies the ecological interactions of butterflies and plants. Clearly this is no ordinary scientist. Combined with his intrepid courage (PNG is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with a very high homicide rate), he is a shrewd observer of human nature. In the richly varied notes and reflections of this very individual volume are not only descriptions of natural history and scientific research in the rainforest, but accounts of the local peoples and their culture, the challenges of working across very different cultures, and amusing portraits of the antics of Western tourists, separated by a few 'intermezzi' - episodes when the author fought bouts of malaria. Novotny is that rare combination of excellent scientist and superb storyteller. The faithful translations by David Short bring these notes and reflections on science, nature, and human beings to a wide audience, without any loss to their richness, warmth, humility, and wisdom. The volume is illustrated with beautiful drawings by a self-taught Papuan artist, Benson Avea Bego, who lives in a remote village.
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION: HOW I GOT TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA...AND WHAT CAME NEXT
ISLAND OF A THOUSAND TONGUES AND A WILD, WILD LANDSCAPE
Don't go talking to the neighbours!
Tok Pisin, or lingua franca the Papuan way
The magic number of 500
The rise of folklore
New Year's Eve among the natives
Malaria intermezzo: Mabura Hill, 1997
Buy the Book of Books, we have no other
The age of darkness
The character of a New Guinea town
Wishing you a pleasant flight with Adventist Aviators!
The sight of a fleeting landscape
[plus dozens of additional notes arranged in 4 additional parts:]
OLD AND NEW CUSTOMS OF A TRIBAL SOCIETY
FOREIGNERS AND THEIR ODD IDEAS
HOW TO DO SCIENCE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
IN CONCLUSION: TRAVEL REPORT