I once got to see an egg of a great auk, an extinct North Atlantic flightless bird, whose scientific name gave us the word penguin. It was absolutely stunning.
In this very enjoyable book, Michael Blencowe sets off to visit the locales and remains of numerous extinct species, including the great auk, the Pinta Island tortoise, the dodo, Stellar‘s sea cow, and the upland moa. Less famous, less charismatic extinct species also feature, including the Xerces blue butterfly, the huia, the spectacled cormorant, Schomburgk’s deer, and Ivell’s sea anemone.
As well as paying his respects to these lost creatures, Blencowe also describes their tragic histories, how they were discovered, and what became of them.
Blencowe turns out to be something of fan of the explorer and naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who accompanied Vitus Bering on his tragic 1730s expedition from Russia to Alaska. I had very much wanted to find out a bit more about Steller, having first encountered him in a long poem by W.G. Sebald in his collection After Nature. Blencowe has tweaked my interest even further.
Despite its rather depressing subject matter, Gone is an enjoyable, easy read.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.