Some less-quoted quotes from Douglas Adams, who died in May 2001 and who would have turned 65 today:
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"In contradiction of everything sensible we know about geography and geometry, the sky over Kenya is simply much bigger than it is anywhere else." — Last Chance to See, Ch. 3, 'Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat'
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"Until relatively recently — in the evolutionary scale of things — the wildlife of New Zealand consisted of almost nothing but birds. Only birds could reach the place. ...[and] there were no predators. No dogs, no cats, no ferrets or weasels, nothing that the birds needed to escape from particularly.
"And flight, of course, is a means of escape. It's a survival mechanism, and one that the birds of New Zealand found they didn't especially need. Flying is hard work and consumes a lot of energy.
"...So when eventually European settlers arrived and brought cats and dogs and stoats and possums with them, a lot of New Zealand's flightless birds were suddenly waddling for their lives. The kiwis, the takahes — and the old night parrots, the kakapos.
"Of these, the kakapo is the strangest. Well, I suppose the penguin is a pretty peculiar creature when you think about it, but it's quite a robust kind of peculiarness, and the birds is perfectly well adapted to the world in which it finds itself, in a way that the kakapo is not. The kakapo is a bird out of time. If you look one in its large, round, greeny-brown face, it has a loon of serenely innocent incomprehension that makes you want to hug it and tell it that everything will be all right, though you know that it probably will not be." — Last Chance to See, Ch. 4, "Heartbeats In the Night"
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[when attempting to study the Yangtze River Dolphin by lowering condom-wrapped microphones into river water:] "The sound we heard wasn't exactly what I had expected. Water is a very good medium for the propagation of sound and I had expected to hear clearly the heavy, pounding reverberations of each of the boats that had gone thundering by us as we stood on the deck. But water transmits sound even better than that, and what we were hearing was everything that was happening in the Yangtze for many, many miles around.
"Instead of hearing the roar of each individual ship's propeller, what we heard was a sustained shrieking blast of pure white noise, in which nothing could be distinguished at all.
"...I realized with the vividness of shock that somewhere beneath or around me there were intelligent animals whose perceptive universe we could scarcely begin to imagine, living in a seething, poisoned, deafening world, and that their lives were probably passed in continual bewilderment, hunger, pain, and fear." — Last Chance to See, Ch. 5, "Blind Panic"
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"I watched the gorilla's eyes again, wise and knowing eyes, and wondered about this business of trying to teach apes language. Our language. Why? There are many members of our own species who live in and with the forest and know it and understand it. We don't listen to them. What is there to suggest we would listen to anything an ape could tell us? Or that it would be able to tell us of its life in a language that hasn't been born of that life? I thought, maybe it is not that they have yet to gain a language, it is that we have lost one." - Last Chance to See, Ch. 3
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In 1990, after a series of research trips all over the world, Douglas Adams published his nonfiction book Last Chance to See, co-authored with Mark Carwardine. Adams' interest in conservation had led him to seek out endangered or threatened species, like the creatures he described above.
My copy of it is worn — many of my Douglas Adams books are worn — from many readings. I revisit Douglas Adams a lot. I have the book handy for the next revisit, and for today, I wanted to remember him by remembering this book.