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Beyond the Coral Sea: Travels in the Old Empires of the South-West Pacific [Hardcover]

Michael Moran
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Mar 2003

A romantic and adventurous journey to the hidden islands and lagoons beyond Papua New Guinea and north of Australia.

East of Java and west of Tahiti a bird of dazzling plumage stalks the Pacific over the Cape York Peninsula of Australia. In her wake, she spills clusters of emeralds on the surface of the deep. These are the unknown paradise islands of the Coral, Solomon and Bismarck Seas lying off the east coast of Papua New Guinea.

Along the way Michael Moran explores the role of superstition, magic rites and the occult in the lives of the islanders, including the trading route of the Kula Ring which unites many tribal island groups in a mystical exchange of symbolically valuable objects, one set travelling clockwise around the ring, the other anti-clockwise. His narrative is interwoven with the stories of eccentric residents past and present – such as the self-styled ‘Queen Emma’ of New Britain, who was born of an American father and a Samoan mother and built up a large empire of copra plantations, as well as trading in the fabled obsidian (black volcanic glass) and entertaining on a lavish scale with imported food and French champagne. Moran describes the historic anthropological work of Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands and also catches up with some of the adventurers, mercenaries, explorers, missionaries and prospectors he has encountered on previous journeys.

The islands were the last inhabited place on earth to be explored by Europeans and even today many remain largely unspoilt, despite the former presence of German, British and even Australian colonial rulers. In addition there has been a recent resurgence of cannibalism in the remoter areas. But rather than a tale of cannibals and blood, this is a journey in the romantic and adventurous spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson and an exploration of encroaching change in remarkably diverse cultures.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (3 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002261707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002261708
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 18.4 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 182,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Moran has led a varied and adventurous life. Born and educated in Australia and Europe, he spent his twenties wandering the islands of Polynesia and Melanesia. He finally settled among the descendants of the Bounty mutiny on Norfolk Island off the eastern Australian coast. As the Broadcasting Officer for the Administration, he helped establish the radio station.

Subsequently pursuing a career in music, he studied the piano and harpsichord professionally in London for many years, facilitated by his academic work as an English teacher. He has lectured on a variety of subjects, ranging from the music of Fryderyk Chopin and François Couperin to British art and architecture and the colonial history and culture of the South Pacific region. His historical novel, 'Point Venus', set in the former British penal settlement on Norfolk Island, was successfully published in Australia. (Brandl & Schlesinger, Sydney 1998).

Posted for some years to Poland shortly after the fall of communism, his life-long fascination with Melanesia drew him to the work of the enigmatic Polish anthropologist, Bronislaw Malinowski. This encounter and an abiding interest in the German Pacific Empire precipitated his latest return to the South Seas. 'Beyond the Coral Sea: Travels in the Old Empires of the South-West Pacific' was the fruit of this expedition through the island provinces of Papua New Guinea (HarperCollins, London 2003 and Flamingo 2004). The book was short-listed for the 2004 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and is still in print.

He has most recently written 'A Country in the Moon : Travels in Search of the Heart of Poland', a memoir,residence, cultural and historical book chronicling his adventures in Poland immediately following the fall of communism. Published by 'Granta'. The book continues to be popular both in the English and Polish translation (Kraj z Księżyca: Podróże do serca Polski Wydawnictwo Czarne, Warszawa 22 Marzec, 2010r.)

Lately he was competitively awarded a generous literary grant by the Australia Council (the cultural arm of the Australian government) to write the biography of his great-uncle, the once internationally famous and glamorous but now forgotten Australian concert pianist Edward Cahill (1885-1975). This pianist was active in the 1920s and 1930s in London, Paris and the French Riviera. A severely edited version of his colourful life featured in the Prologue to A Country in the Moon. The book is provisionally entitled 'The Pocket Paderewski: Scenes from the Remarkable Life of the Australian Concert Pianist Edward Cahill'. Re-mastered historic recordings of Chopin and Liszt made by Cahill in the 1930s will accompany the book.

A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a lecturer there and an incessant traveller, he lives and works in Warsaw, Sydney and London.

For more details on books,reviews,video interview, blog and work in progress:

Website: www.michael-moran.net

Blog and Work in progress: www.michael-moran.com

Video Interview: http://off-press.org/main/multimedia/off_video/


Product Description

Review

".....all the ingredients of a fine travelogue....Everything you wanted to know about cannibalism but were afraid to ask is here." -- Daily Telegraph, 5 April, 2003

"A captivating book...a glorious insight into the world’s most unknown quarters...a master of the most magical prose." -- Tahir Shah, Travel Writer, author of In Search of King Solomon's Mines.

"Lovely description beams through every chapter. Moran travels in great good humour and with relish...its scope will keep you hooked." -- Scotland on Sunday (The Scotsman), 23 February, 2003

"Moran gives a solid, sensitive background to the country’s present state." -- The Times 1 March, 2003

"This is a richly detailed account of this idyllic, untouched land." -- Daily Express Travel Book of the Week, 8 March, 2003

"This is travel writing of the highest quality." -- The Good Book Guide April 2003 Recommended

"This wonderful book is my country. This is Papua New Guinea." -- Ms Jean L. Kekedo OBE, Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, 4 March, 2003

"[Moran] is a reporter with a painterly eye, a tape-recorder ear and a dry sense of humour that enliven all his encounters....." -- Irish Times 15 March 2003 Patrick Skene Catling

"……...filled with tales of wonder, sadness and extraordinary behaviour.....a very wonderful part of the globe." -- Sunday Times Anthony Sattin's Travel Book of the Week , 9 March 2003

From the Publisher

East of Java and west of Tahiti a bird of dazzling plumage stalks the Pacific over the Cape York Peninsula of Australia. In her wake, she spills clusters of emeralds on the surface of the deep. These are the unknown paradise islands of the Coral, Solomon and Bismarck Seas lying off the east coast of Papua New Guinea.

Along the way Michael Moran explores the role of superstition, magic rites and the occult in the lives of the islanders, including the trading route of the Kula Ring which unites many tribal island groups in a mystical exchange of symbolically valuable objects, one set travelling clockwise around the ring, the other anti-clockwise. His narrative is interwoven with the stories of eccentric residents past and present – such as the self-styled ‘Queen Emma’ of New Britain, who was born of an American father and a Samoan mother and built up a large empire of copra plantations, as well as trading in the fabled obsidian (black volcanic glass) and entertaining on a lavish scale with imported food and French champagne. Moran describes the historic anthropological work of Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands and also catches up with some of the adventurers, mercenaries, explorers, missionaries and prospectors he has encountered on previous journeys.

The islands were the last inhabited place on earth to be explored by Europeans and even today many remain largely unspoilt, despite the former presence of German, British and even Australian colonial rulers. In addition there has been a recent resurgence of cannibalism in the remoter areas. But rather than a tale of cannibals and blood, this is a journey in the romantic and adventurous spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson and an exploration of encroaching change in remarkably diverse cultures.



Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is the first book on the Island Provinces of Papua New Guinea rather than the Highlands for a hundred years and what a brilliant book it is! Finely-written with beautiful photographs (particularly of children and island landscape) as well as excellent maps.
Clearly a product of extensive research, this book gives the reader a balanced insight into a vanishing world in a way that is both informative and entertaining. The islands are still almost pristine and 'stone-age' in character but not for much longer I fear.
This is travel writing of the highest quality about a place most readers are highly unlikely to visit. The account of the great Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the Trobriand "Islands of Love" is both penetrating and enlightening. Moran is one of those rare travel writers who respects what he sees and communicates this to the reader with dry humour and deep understanding. Life in Papua New Guinea can be both "terrible and wonderful" by turns - Moran steers us through the cultural labyrinth with great talent. I am looking forward to the Polish edition!
"Beyond the Coral Sea" should become the standard work and required reading for anyone contemplating a trip to Papua New Guinea - even those who are not.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring stuff! 27 Jan 2005
Format:Paperback
Moran's style and humour prevails throughout this compelling and meaningful book. From start to finish one is engulfed into a world so unlike anything that exists in the west. For that very reason, you cannot help but feel a sense of excitement and adventure. Add into that his dry (with an 'old world' British twist) sense of humour and it becomes captivating. It's clear that Moran's subjects are all very well researched. The depth and breath of knowledge of this obscure place and its people can only have come from someone who has a genuine interest in it, and enough passion in him to actually go there! It's this interest and passion that shines through, making it (in my opinion) one of the most unusual and offbeat travel books around today.
If you're bored with your humdrum life, and dream of flights of fancy in far away places, then this is the book for you. The concept of this book has actually inspired me to travel to far away places too. I left my boring life in London behind to travel the continent of South America for 2 years, and a lot of the impetus I needed to make that move was generated by reading "Beyond the coral sea". Thanks Michael Moran!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read. 10 Oct 2008
Format:Paperback
Picked this up quite by chance but (unlike many other "travel books", I have read) was a page-turner from beginning to end. The author brings to life the subject matter so that (as is intended from a book in the genre) you really wish you could go to New Guinea.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the Coral Sea 18 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Took this book with me to read on holiday as I was going to Papua New Guinea and the islands. Loved it as I went to many of the places in the book and found the reports I read were indeed true. I even met "busy bee"
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