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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call, 25 Jan 2011
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ice Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear (Hardcover)
This is a book that I've been looking forward to for the best part of 18 months. Alas due to delays it's been a long wait and whilst its finally arrived, I'd almost wished that it hadn't as it's a wake-up call to the world to help save an endangered species now rather than waiting for its painful demise as the Arctic Ice caps melt. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with this book but when such beautiful creatures are on the verge of disappearing within many peoples memory due to mankind's selfishness then it's time to stand up and be counted.

The book is wonderfully written as the author takes the reader on a journey to the Arctic Circle in order to allow us to see this impressive creature (10ft in height and 2000 pounds in weight) in all its glory and whilst we can revel in its majesty we have to remember exactly what these mammals are capable of. Add to this an informed well-spoken voice to help carry this title through which when backed with an almost travel journal vocal style allows the reader easy access to this elusive creature. Let their voices be heard before the we're only left with an echo as they've gone the way of the Dodo.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely and essential, 2 Jun 2011
This review is from: Ice Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear (Hardcover)
The Great White Bear is a natural history of the that iconic Arctic animal, the polar bear. It makes fascinating reading - I wanted to quote so much from it, my copy is full of highlighted passages that I want to make everyone in the world read, because the polar bear in peak form is a muscle-bound miracle of evolution with a four-and-a-half inch layer of blubber, black skin and translucent hair that works so efficiently that, far from struggling to keep warm, the bear actually has to stay cool. It can smell a seal for miles, has been known to leap on the back of a beluga whale, and spends four months under the snow to rear its young.

Kieran Mulvaney has written for, amongst others, New Scientist, BBC Wildlife and Greenpeace, lived for seven years in Alaska and brings a lifetime's interest and understanding to his subject. His book covers all aspects of the bear's life (including the answer to the hoary question about why they don't live in the Antarctic) from evolution and physiology to its future. Most important of all, though of little practical interest to most bears, is the unequal relationship with man, and Mulvaney demonstrates beyond question just how unequal that is: despite its being admirably equipped to kill, encounters between bears and humans are much more likely to result in the bear's death. And bears are still hunted, of course, both legitimately by indigenous peoples, and illegally, even in Russia where hunting has been banned for longest.

In this accessible and readable book, Mulvaney combines history, mythology and science with his own first-hand travels and experience of "bear tourism" with Canadian polar bears in Churchill, and an attempt to offer a deeper understanding of the bear's experience as he describes its life through the course of the Arctic year. Thus it's rather reminiscent of Kingdom of the Ice Bear, the hugely successful television series which followed a family of bears, and readers in search of "hard" science may be surprised at the degree of intimacy the approach offers. There's no lack of solid information, though, and Mulvaney examines and presents it thoughtfully. I felt enriched as I read, intellectually and emotionally.

The final chapter is a consideration of the threat of global warming on the Arctic, an environment extremely susceptible to change as the sea ice declines, taking with it the algae that drives the Arctic Ocean's complex ecology. While migrant species may benefit, at least in the short term from these changes, the species which are dependent on the ice for breeding are already under threat, in the case of the polar bear doubly so, since the seals which are its prey are its companions in ice-dependency. We've all seen the film of a polar bear swimming in an ocean bereft of ice, and realised that the creature is almost certainly doomed to swim until it drowns - and indeed, the book's US cover image is of a swimming bear (I'm not sure why the UK publisher decided to go with a less effective image). It may be as little as twenty years before the ice fails to replace in winter what has been lost in summer and our descendants will only know the polar bear on film, or as a sad creature in a zoo with concrete beneath its paws. We have evidence that the bears are already showing signs of decline both in size and numbers, and it's more than time that the polar bear was declared an endangered species (rather than "threatened", its current status), so that its welfare must be take into consideration and its habitat protected. Mulvaney's book is timely and essential.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in the Arctic, 30 May 2013
By 
Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
At times, I felt that the author presented more detail than I really wanted, but that at least I can't complain about any omissions. Everything I expected to be covered is here. The author discusses all phases of a polar bear's life - birth, cub, young bear (referred to as sub-adult) and mature adult. He looks at their diet, hunting methods, migration patterns and so much else. One long chapter focuses on their interaction with people, but it's not all that reassuring to know that polar bears aren't interested in eating people unless they're really hungry and desperate.

Another long chapter focuses on the Arctic climate and its long-term changes. The case for Arctic warming is presented strongly and if present trends continue, the polar bear is likely to be extinct in under 200 years. However, the author also acknowledges that in some parts of the world, the trend is cooling. (In the UK, I've witnessed the warming trend from the mid-90s to 2006, since when things have been very different.) This chapter on Arctic warming is nevertheless interesting in showing what could happen.

While this book is primarily about polar bears ,it would nevertheless be a good starting point for anybody wanting to read about the Arctic region generally.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ!, 5 April 2012
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This review is from: Ice Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear (Hardcover)
It's a must read! A great book, I shall not spoil this for you but I will recommend it. It's exactly what it says on the cover.
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Ice Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear
Ice Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear by Kieran Mulvaney (Hardcover - 6 Jan 2011)
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