Sea Room is Adam Nicolson's tribute to the uninhabited Shiant Islands, in the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. Nicolson inherited the Shiants from his father when he was 21 years of age.
The book is a wonderful exploration of the natural history, the history and geology of the islands. The islands have not always been uninhabited and the sections of the book that look at the archeological investigations that explore the history of past island communities are totally fascinating. The islands are currently considered too remote for anyone to want to live there though Nicolson himself stays there for short periods of time.
Nicolson knows the birds of the islands intimately:
The private winter islands are the realm of the [barnacle] geese. .... They are scattered across the grass, black and white - whte chest and head, a black bib and neck, a black back next to which the wings are barred with gray and white stripes which from a distance gives the effect of moire or ruffled silk..... perhaps four hundred of them, relentlessly pecking away at the ground beneath their feet, looking up now and then, a wary eye but then face down again to the grass, tugging at the stems, eating, eating. They are busy. This is no holiday. There is none of that standing around, displaying to each other, socialising or looking bored, which the puffins and other fish eating birds do late in the year. The goose's life is dictated by its intestines.
The book tackles the issue of private land ownership. His opinion is that the islands, which are an important nesting site for may species of bird, are probably better off for nature in his hands, because he reckons if a conservation charity bought them then the island ecology would be damaged by all the infrastructure that would be required to make the islands into a nature reserve that would welcome visitors.
Sea Room by Adam Nicolson, published by Harper Collins
I'm taking part in Brighton Blogger's 2012 Reading Challenge!
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