Off the Map: Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places and What They Tell Us About the World by Alastair Bonnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Apart from some obscure bits of the Amazon rainforest and Indonesian jungles we think that there can be no undiscovered parts of the world; can there? Surely, we must have discovered everything on Google Earth by now. Off The Map sets about putting that record straight. In this book, Bonnett helps us discover secret places, unexpected islands, slivers of a metropolis and hidden villages. Russia seems to have more than its fair share of secret and abandoned cities. There is Zheleznogorsk, a military town that never existed on any map and still retains some of its secrecy today. Probably the most infamous is Pripyat, abandoned days after the nuclear explosion at Chenobyl, it is slowly being reclaimed by nature; the amount of radiation means that the area will not be safe for humans to reoccupy for at least 900 years. Give or take…
Bonnett tells us about disputed borders that mean that the people still living there are unattached to any nation, a man in New York who bought the tiny strips of land alongside tower blocks for a few dollars each. There is Sealand, a fortress built in World War Two and now a self-declared principality in the North Sea. Other islands exist in out oceans too, some that are on maps that have never been there, others made from rubbish that has collected together and occasionally floating rocks; or pumice as it is better known, the residue from underwater volcanoes. There is also a huge vessel called the World, collectively owned by the residents, it ploughs the seas keeping all the riff-raff away. He mentions the abandoned villages of England from the second world war, including one just down the road from me; Arne.
It is a fascinating book, full of weird and wonderful trivia about places that you really wouldn’t want to visit on your holidays. It is also an exploration of what makes a landscape and the things we draw from it. Worth reading for anyone who is fascinated by those places that just don’t fit the map. 3.5 stars
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