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Reviewed by:
  • Atlas of the Pacific Islands
  • James O Juvik and Sonia P Juvik
Atlas of the Pacific Islands, by Max Quanchi. Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd; Honolulu: Bess Press, 2003. ISBN 1-57306-154-9; iv + 156 pages, maps, gazetteer. US$24.95.

Although this atlas has been expressly designed for those who "live and study in the Pacific region," the title of this well-illustrated volume is something of a misnomer. It is rather a secondary-school-level world atlas with a substantial focus (about 40 percent of the 156-page text) on the Pacific Islands region, including Australia. The Pacific Islands and comprehensive World sections are supplemented by a 34-page world gazetteer. The volume opens with a useful, 4-page "atlas skill" section, which includes concise presentations on standard subjects such as map keys, latitude/longitude, and map scale. Page layouts are generally attractive with a creative and information-rich mix of maps, photos, graphs, and additional satellite and computer generated images. In some cases, however, there appears to have been an unfortunate tendency to compress too much material onto each page. Graphics and accompanying font sizes are sometimes too small for easy comprehension. As an example, a graphic on compass reading on page 4 has microscopic compass bearing numbers that are essentially unreadable. Even when larger graphics are employed, opportunities are sometimes missed. On an attractive, full-page map of the Pacific Ocean sea floor there is no attempt to convey thedynamics of crustal plate movement so critical to an understanding of regional volcanism, earthquakes, and general geological process. This plate tectonic information is, however, conveyed elsewhere in the text as part of a much smaller, unrelated sidebar.

Both the World and Pacific sections of the atlas are peppered with a total of twenty-seven useful "case study" sidebars grouped under three major themes: the physical world, the human world, and conservation and management. Examples of Pacific Island case studies include the Rock Islands of Palau, the geologic evolution of Pacific islands, impacts of the Bikini nuclear testing, and tourism in Vanuatu. Strangely, a sidebar on "Exploring thePacific Region" focuses solely onEuropean explorers, thus missing entirely one of the most dramatic events of humankind, the initial long-distance colonization of the Pacific, initiated by the early water crossing to Australia from the Lesser Sunda Islands and culminating with the rapid Polynesian settlement of remote Oceania. This sidebar also includes a photo of Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki raft, a logo for his thoroughly discredited "westward-drifting" theory of Polynesian settlement. In spite of this specific criticism, it is clear that considerable thought went into selection and development of the sidebar materials and themes that bring into focus a range of complex physical, cultural, and environmental issues in the region.

The 60-page Pacific Islands section of the atlas opens with an initial 12 pages on broad thematic elements (eg,land tenure and agriculture, [End Page 196] urbanization and natural resources). This is followed by 1- to 2-page map/graphic spreads on each of the region's political entities. These are well done, although one might question why Sāmoa and American Sāmoa are separated by many pages in this section. A valuable "Pacific Statistics" table at the conclusion of this section is somewhat compromised by the absence of year-specific data sources; "latest available at time of publication" could frustrate students looking for a concise socioeconomic citation.

Overall, the reviewers can recommend this volume as a useful student resource for the Pacific region.

Sonia P Juvik
University of Hawai'i, Hilo