Eye of the Albatross Visions of Hope and Survival

Carl Safina

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

400 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
Winner of the John Burroughs Medal
A Boston Globe Best Book

At the lonely center of the largest ocean lies a group of islands brimming with wildlife. And there, like a feathered nation, half a million goose-size albatross chicks await foraging parents who may be gone for weeks in search of food. Our narrator in this extraordinary place is Carl Safina; his guide and inspiration is Amelia, a hardworking parent albatross wearing a state-of-the-art satellite tracking transmitter.

While scouring the ocean for just one meal for her patiently waiting famished chick, Amelia is carried by her giant wings as many as seven thousand miles from her nest. As we travel with her, Amelia becomes both host and vehicle, sweeping us along on her journeys, sharing the world as an albatross sees it.

Weaving the albatross's metaphorical and real-life powers, Safina blends literature, history, adventure, science, and in-the-moment action. Amelia's travels through space and time connect us with the explorers and hunters, including Charles Darwin, Herman Melville, and James Cook, who first penetrated the remote and forbidding albatross realms. Traveling the trackless ocean, Amelia likewise introduces us to the rhythms of whales and sea turtles, sharks and seals, fishes and seabirds.

Watching a green turtle emerge from the surf wash to breed, we marvel at a creature that makes her first hesitant transition from the float of water to the stranding alienation of land as her ancestors have done for 150 million years. Safina shows us that the drive to survive has carried these creatures through historic ravages of hunters and plunderers, and that despite a slew of new challenges, albatrosses and their ocean neighbors will likely survive long into the future. Amelia's life—the life we all share—is an epic of struggle and hope, of the power of sheer persistence and life's resilience.


Praise for Eye of the Albatross

"Truly magnificent—Safina has done as much as anyone save Cousteau to change our relationship with the aquatic world."—Bill McKibben, The Boston Globe

"[Safina] delivers a message full of wonder at the natural world and concern about the fragility of his subject . . . He cannot contain his delight in birds, fish and the profusion of life on the islands he visits."—James Gorman, The New York Times Book Review

"A beautiful, awe-inspiring tableau of our world as you've never seen it."—Colin Woodard, The Christian Science Monitor

"Safina again opens our eyes . . . The travels are epic, the animals awe-inspiring, and the realized message of the unity of life is important and uplifting."—Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School for Environmental Studies

"In this beautifully written work, Safina blends history and science to offer, in a seamlessly telescoped style, first an ecosystem, then a species, and finally one bird, the last as compellingly drawn as the protagonist of a novel. The general reader cannot fail to be pulled deeply into natural history by reading it."—Edward O. Wilson, author The Future of Life

"In Eye of the Albatross, Carl Safina takes us on a wonderous journey through the vast reaches of the Pacific with a most unusual traveling companion, an albatross named Amelia . . . His account brings us to a world few have visited, let alone understand."—Roger Rufe, The Ocean Conservancy

"So much more than a nature book—it is a life lesson. Carl Safina writes this book as gracefully and courageously as his heroine Amelia masters the world's oceans."—Vikki Spruill, executive director, SeaWeb

"Few scientists have Safina's feel for these magnificent denizens of the marine world, for the oceans themselves . . . Read it to get a splendid view of this world."—Paul R. Ehrlich, author of
dn0 Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect

"Carl Safina eloquently uses birds as the prism through which we can view and explore this vast wilderness . . . A must read."—John Flicker, president, National Audubon Society

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Eye of the Albatross
PRELUDEWHEN THE WIND DROPS in late afternoon, Amelia, already hundreds of miles from land, rises on her own power, flapping more than she'd prefer. With her breast muscles pulling on the long bones of her wings, those wings biting like propellers to pull her through the air, she is using up more of the energy she's here to replenish. After rising on a small gust of breeze, Amelia lets gravity take over the work again, gliding downward and forward like a wind-driven snowflake. When her flight line dips, her wing tip traces a thin line on the sea, leaving
Read the full excerpt


  • Carl Safina

  • Carl Safina, a MacArthur Fellow, Pew Fellow, and winner of a Lannan Literary award for literature, is the president of the Blue Ocean Institute. The New York Times Book Review called his Song for the Blue Ocean "a landmark book," and it was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Selection, and a Library Journal Best Science Book Selection. In 2003, Safina was awarded a National Academies Communication Award "for his clear and vivid exposition of the scientific process and the many and varied relationships between living organisms and their ocean ecosystem."
  • Carl Safina Patricia Paladines
    Carl Safina