The Reefs of Taprobane

Bookshelf: The Reefs of Taprobane

The Reefs of Taprobane – Arthur C. Clarke

The Reefs of Taprobane is the follow-up to renowned science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s account of the time he spent diving the Great Barrier Reef, The Coast of Coral. It’s the second book in his Blue Planet trilogy – I fear I will not be able to review the third book, Treasures of the Great Reef, since it seems to be long out of print. Perhaps a lucky find at a second-hand bookshop will change that situation!

The Reefs of Taprobane
The Reefs of Taprobane

It recounts the time that Clarke and Mike Wilson, his diving partner, spent in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), diving the reefs that surround the island. Like The Coast of Coral, it’s written with great humour. I almost choked when Clarke recounted how Wilson punctuated their trip down the Suez canal with nostalgic references to his time in the British army, pointing out landmarks with comments such as “That’s where we blew up the police station,” and “You should have seen the gun battle we had in that café!” Clarke states that this helped him to understand why the British army is so well-beloved throughout the Middle East.

The book was published in the late 1950s, and the diving technology and philosophy is appropriately dated. There’s a LOT of spearfishing. The approach by the divers was to spear some fish (including a parrot fish over 1 metre long!?) and then wait for sharks to show up so that they could photograph them. I suppose I should not be surprised by their tactics, because their guide in Ceylon was one of the foremost spear fishermen on the island.

Owing to various circumstances (an infected foot among them), Clarke doesn’t actually spend that much time diving. The book is thus a bit unfocused – my favourite section was the account of their dives on the Admiralty floating dock at Trincomalee Harbour. I didn’t enjoy The Reefs of Tabrobane as much as I enjoyed The Coast of Coral but it’s still an interesting account of exploratory diving done in the very early days of scuba.

Buy the book here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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