Sunday, July 12, 2020

Underland by Robert McFarland

In this fascinating book, author Robert McFarland takes the reader on a journey to places most of us will never see.  All are underground places and each chapter introduces the reader to a new locale and gives the history and interrelatedness of this area to the world around us.  Each is a place most of us never knew existed except for a few who are interested in the area or the scientific work that takes place there.

As the book opens, McFarland takes us into underland places in Britain, his home.  He talks about those who explore underground and how many have lost their lives there.  He talks about a place in old mines under the sea where the new discoveries of physics are done, as they need a large space totally isolated.  Another chapter introduces the biology of the forest and how the trees are interconnected and the part that fungi play in the environment.

Moving on to Europe, he explores cities and their underground spaces.  There are cities with rivers flowing completely under them.  Other have catacombs and old history of abandoned places that are not easy to find but still exist.  In Slovinia, he talks about the wars that happened there and how the caves were used as burial sites for the victims of the conflict.

Moving on to Northern Europe, McFarland explores the little known cave paintings of the Far North, not as well known as those in France.  Few have seen the red figurines called The Red Dancers.  Then he moves on to the glacier areas and explores their majesty and how oil exploration and climate change threatens them.

In each chapter, he explores the science and the history and philosophy surrounding the topic.  Each chapter is thoroughly researched and explained.  The book has won awards such as a New York Times 100 Notable Books and the Guardian's 100 Best Books of the 21st Century and won the National Outdoor Book Award.  It is a book to be slowly read and savored and the reader will turn the last page much more knowledgeable about the worlds that exist beneath our feet, laying the foundation for our lives above.  This book is recommended for readers of nonfiction.

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