Voyage of the Turtle In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur

Carl Safina

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

416 Pages


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An evolutionary marvel, the single surviving species of its genus and family, the leatherback turtle is a reptile that behaves like a warm-blooded dinosaur—males weigh up to 2,000 pounds—and is able to withstand colder water than most fishes and dive deeper than any whale. Though its ancestry can be traced back 125 million years, the leatherback's uncertain future is now in our hands. Today sea turtle populations are in freefall in Pacific waters, while Atlantic numbers are on the rise. Carl Safina's eye-opening investigation into the leatherback's complex life cycle is at the heart of this compelling narrative.  We are invited to accompany the author and his colleagues as they research the pelagic giant's unique natural history, gauge the effects of human intervention, and track the sea turtle's migrations across the world's oceans to remote beaches on every continent. To this end, we follow the leatherback by sea and satellite, including an exhilarating six-thousand-mile Pacific journey from Monterey, California, to newly discovered nesting grounds in the wilderness of New Guinea. Voyage of the Turtle captures the delicate interaction between the ancient giants and the people who are playing significant roles in the leatherback's survival. Safina's stories remind us how deeply interconnected are our actions with all life on earth.


Praise for Voyage of the Turtle

"Wonder and awe are to be found in Carl Safina's magnificent Voyage of the Turtle, a book that makes the sea air palpable, fills the nostrils with the tang of marine detritus and brings us face-to-face with an ancient, tenacious and endangered animal, the sea turtle . . . With . . . intimate detail, Safina . . . gives us reasons to care about the turtles and when there are reasons to celebrate the species' resiliency, he does so with pleasure . . . This is a joyful, hopeful book that at the same time, doesn't let us off the hook as far as sea turtle survival goes . . . Safina reminds, giving us ample reasons to be enthralled by this astonishing ancient animal—and ample reasons to care."—Bernadette Murphy, Los Angeles Times
"Safina is a Ph.D. ecologist whose gift for clear, energetic prose makes marine science both accessible and alluring . . . In his new book, precisely observed writing often rises to eloquence."—Dan Cryer, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Safina . . . makes a wonderful guide. His knowledge brings a welcome complexity to his task . . . [He] is a natural teacher, crisply explaining why sea life congregates on Georges Bank and why animal size equals distance in the ocean."—Karen R. Long, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
"Sarafina's marvelous account, with its mix of travelogue and scientific research, is never less than fascinating and covers such important issues as what the health of the sea turtle population says bout the health of the planet."—John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"[Voyage of the Turtle] is an exquisite blend of history, biology, politics and adventure . . . [It] is a fascinating narrative that will appeal to a reading public beyond mere turtle huggers."—Pete Warzel, Rocky Mountain News
"Carl Safina is like some extraordinary astronaut who goes into space and comes back with fantastic tales of other planets and the creatures who inhabit them. Except that the marvelous planet is our own. This is a story of stoicism and wonder that will make the oceans seem that much richer to all who read it."—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"That remarkable voice for the marine realm, Carl Safina, reveals the riveting tale of that most extraordinary creature, the Leatherback Turtle, overlain with the drama and hope of the battle for its conservation. No naturalist or planetary citizen can hope to be complete without Voyage of the Turtle. A fabulous book."Thomas E. Lovejoy, President, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment
"MacArthur fellow and John Burroughs Award–winner Safina presents an impassioned account of the plight of ocean-dwelling turtles, especially the largest, the leatherback, 'the closest thing we have to a living dinosaur.' Leatherbacks, which can weigh over a ton, range the oceans to nesting sites on beaches along the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. Safina travels to many of these sites, bringing the reader into the turtles' world as he describes how the females leave the ocean, cross sandy beaches, dig huge pits using their flippers as spades, lay their eggs and then creep back into the sea. He shows how precarious this world is; nature's dangers are always present, but it's human activities that threaten the turtles with extinction: poaching, longline fishing nets in which the turtles can drown and depletion of the turtles' food supply due to overfishing and global warming. There are remedies, such as intensive nest-saving programs, but these take time to implement, and time is running out for the turtles. Safina's eloquent book is a battle cry in the struggle for the survival of one of the world's most beautiful and endangered creatures."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Read an Excerpt

There exists a presence in the ocean, seldom glimpsed in waking hours, best envisioned in your dreams. While you drift in sleep, turtles ride the curve of the deep, seeking their inspiration from the sky. From tranquil tropic bays or nightmare maelstroms hissing foam, they come unseen to share our air. Each sharp exhalation affirms, "Life yet endures." Each inhaled gasp vows, "Life will continue." With each breath they declare to the stars and wild silence. By night and by light, sea turtles glide always, their parallel universe strangely alien, yet intertwining
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  • Carl Safina

  • Carl Safina, a MacArthur fellow, Pew fellow, 2000 winner of a Lannan award for literature, and winner of the 2003 John Burroughs Award, is president of the Blue Ocean Institute.
  • Carl Safina Patricia Paladines
    Carl Safina