David Attenborough’s new book describes his two remarkable expeditions to the South Seas in search of people and their primitive way of life, although it was the lure of seeing birds of paradise in their natural surroundings that drew him into the heart of primitive New Guinea. With Charles Lagus he set out from the Wahgi Valley and trekked for many days along the narrow jungle path into the Jimi Valley. They encountered stone-axe makers, richly adorned tribesman and a race of pygmies, and here they achieved their main objective and watched the fabled dance of the birds of paradise. On his return David Attenborough was determined to explore the islands further to the east, and luck was with him for last year he recieved an invitation to visit Tonga. On his way there he went to the islands of the New Hebrides, saw the sensational land-divers on the island of Pentecost and learned about the god John Frum and the extraordinary “cargo” cult on Tanna; in Fiji he was captivated by the native peoples, watched fire-walking and the calling of turtles, and took part in the ceremonial fishing of a sacred lake. Finally, in Tonga he met Queen Salote and filmed the Royal Kava Ceremony which few Europeans have been privileged to witness. David Attenborough’s previous books have established him as a leading author and this new work, describing so vividly and amusingly his experiences among the strange tribes of New Guinea and the friendly South Sea Islanders, will add greatly to his reputation as a daring explorer, an acute observer and a brilliant raconteur.
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