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'Pacific' Examines the Evolution of the Modern South Pacific


To many of us, the South Pacific seems like a slice of paradise: gentle trade winds, crystal clear water, lovely beaches. And that’s actually a pretty accurate picture of the Pacific, or at least it was, until around 1950.

"Before 1950, if you like, the world was pure. And after 1950, the world was impure."

Things have changed in a lot of ways since then, from the disappearing Great Barrier Reef, to the rise of surfing, to destructive typhoons. Writer Simon Winchester tells many of the stories you might not have known about the modern Pacific in his latest book, called Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atomic Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers

"Before 1950, if you like, the world was pure. And after 1950, the world was impure. And because those impurities largely came from testing conducted in the Pacific, it seemed to me it had a sort of poetic symmetry to it, to make that beginning of my story," says Winchester. 

Pacific acts as a kind of biography of the modern South Pacific, and uses different stories to illustrate the evolving state of the region. The book provides an in-depth look at what has happened to the region since WWII and the nuclear tests of the 1950s irreparably changed the fate of these island nations.

"It is... a biography of a 64-year-old individual whose importance is going to increase as his years go on," says Winchester.