By Otto Plantema
Published privately, 2019
Hbk, 148pp; 220 colour photographs, ten maps
€19.50 + postage, from the author at [email protected]
Subtitled ‘where to see all the albatross species’, this is an eye-catching and mouth-watering book. It also risks being wallet-emptying if you follow your imagination to some of the most remote islands on the planet. To see all of the 21 albatross species in the world involves a fair amount of dedication, but Otto Plantema has almost achieved his goal, Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis being the only species that has eluded him so far.
Rather than taking a traditional taxonomic approach and listing the species by taxonomic sequence, the author takes us on a journey around the world via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the Tristan da Cunha archipelago and the French subantarctic islands to New Zealand and nearby subantarctic islands, and finally to the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean (visiting Hawaii, Galapagos and Japan). In each area the author describes the major breeding colonies and explains what is involved to reach them.
There are notes on identification, distribution, population, breeding and threats. Bearing in mind the last of these, a percentage of profits from the book sales are being donated to the BirdLife Albatross Task Force to fund more work. The photos are excellent, often filling a page or double-page spread, although a few are much smaller and could easily have been enlarged with more efficient manipulation of column widths and font size. These images give a complete picture of how each species lives both at sea and on land. I spotted only one error: a Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini has ended up on a page with Campbell Albatross T. impavida.
If, like me, you have been fortunate to visit some of these albatross colonies, then the good memories of your travels will flood back. If you have not yet seen an albatross, then after reading this book you will surely want to. Thankfully, conservationists are now having a positive impact on survival rates of these majestic birds in some (but not all) areas. The fact that only one of the 21 albatross species is not considered to be threatened should be a concern to all of us.