As a child, long before he actually visited New Guinea, Tim Flannery fell in love with its exotic mystique. This love didn't have to stay unrequited for long, because Flannery was born relatively close by, in Australia. He was 26 when he first set foot on the vast wild island to the north.
In the less than two decades since, he has undertaken 15 expeditions, explored some of the wildest territory remaining on our heavily paved planet, and identified almost 20 new species of mammals.
New Guinea is the second largest island on Earth. A previously unknown population of 750,000 people the last such hidden world was discovered in the interior as late as the 1930s. Not surprisingly, the native flora and fauna also harbor undiscovered treasures. Tim Flannery describes his love affair in Throwim Way Leg. In New Guinea Pidgin, throwim way leg means to go on a journey, Flannery writes. It describes the action of thrusting out your leg to take the first step of what can be a long march. When he first walked the rugged trails of New Guinea, Flannery had no inkling of the long march that lay ahead. Flannery is more than an explorer. He is, first and foremost, a scientist, a mammalogist who is currently visiting professor of Australian studies at Harvard. His commitment to science, attention to detail, and enthusiasm for adventure never falter. He manages to make of his science-inspired adventures an entertaining, even thrilling story. Flannery's love of adventure is contagious. He encounters animals formerly unknown to the outside world and lives among people for whom cannibalism has only recently begun to go out of fashion. On one field trip, he discovers that, because he has been identified as belonging to the white wildlife clan, he is the target of a revenge scheme. He describes in harrowing detail his near-fatal battle with what he thought was malaria, which turned out to be typhus resulting from a bite by a scrub typhus tick. The Times Literary Supplement said of Flannery that Australia has found its own Stephen Jay Gould. Actually Flannery reads more like such scientific adventurers as Edward O. Wilson, Jane Goodall, and even Charles Darwin people who set out to learn more about their home world in the name of science, and who went out and faced nature on its own terms. Like them, Flannery has explained another piece or two of the great puzzle, and along the way he has forever changed himself and his relationship with the world.