Support the Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme

Cat hunter, Sealer, 'islander' legacy BOOK

A substantial book about life on Marion Island! This book documents anecdotes from the earliest researchers, past cat hunters to modern sealers who are currently gathering data and monitoring animals at Marion Island. If you've been there, this book will bring back memories and if you haven't been there, this book will make you want to go to Marion! Beautiful photo's and interesting anecdotes weaved into the factual background of the broader Southern Ocean islands, show that the spirit of adventure and exploration still lives now in the name of science!



"Pain forms the Character is a spectacular book, right up my alley. Started it the evening I received it and actually couldn't put it down. The cat eradication, which I knew about, immediately caught my interest, but this book is so much more than that. I had no idea of the number of people involved and the conditions. I have to admit that Bester was just a name on some papers to me before this book but is a legend now. That is quite a tribute, in addition to being a hell of a book! My wife has also read it with fascination. It's a beautiful piece of work, a serious piece of scholarship in the form of a coffee-table book." 

Prof. Daniel Simberloff (Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

"Pain forms the Character is a tribute to stories and storytelling, to camaraderie, and above all, to the Prince Edward Islands – our sentinels in the Southern Ocean. It tells stories about the Islands themselves, about spending time in the field and on various ships, about falling and getting up (literally and figuratively), about friendship, but all of these are underlined by a strong sense of purpose – to be the best that you can possibly be at the task in hand. Reading this book raises a complex set of emotions for me. The absolute awe when one first sees the Islands, frustration brought on by sheer exhaustion in the field, happiness from spending time with friends and colleagues, motivation and inspiration brought on by research ideas and collaborations, anticipation of seeing loved ones back home, but above all, absolute gratitude for the opportunity to have experienced these Islands. The collection of stories collated here touches on all of these......  It is a compilation of stories about people and events on Marion Island over many years – some humorous, some philosophical, but all revealing intimate feelings and the strong camaraderie that one typically experiences whilst visiting one of the most beautiful places on earth: the Prince Edward Islands.

South African Journal of Science (book review by Prof. Bettine J van Vuuren, University of Johannesburg)

"Killing cats, tagging and prodding seals, trekking across water-logged landscapes, swimming with orca, enduring wind and rain, developing knowledge, and building comradeship and communities on cold subantarctic islands are some of the subjects that animate this celebratory tome...... With numerous memoirs, profuse photographs, and diary excerpts, this book is a stunning document of the island's human history, its material structures, its memories, cultures and rituals. ..... Pain forms the character is a beautifully and lovingly produced book that gives a thorough portrait of Marion Island and the people who went there under Doc Bester's guidance to understand seals and to eliminate cats. It is a valuable record of the material and social life of a subantarctic community."

Transactions of the Royal Society of SA (book review by Prof. Alessandro Antonello, University of Melbourne)

"Pain forms the Character is an unusual work of environmental history because it raises a number of topics net yet well explored in the literature....... There are seven chapters ... some two-hundred brief entries, which vary widely in tone and content ... linked by forewords and intervening blocks of text. The book contains descriptions of changing research methods and technology in eradicating cats and studying wildlife and of existence generally in this extreme and hostile environment...... There are amusing as well as serious anecdotes........ It deserves a wide readership for the unusual perspective that it offers."

Environment and History (scientific journal book review by Prof. Jane Carruthers, UNISA)

Pain forms the Character is indeed an interesting read about research and life on the Prince Edward Islands group. I think it is a good read for beyond the academic [community]. It is the kind of imaginative output that we [NRF] are trying to capture to get a sense of how the funded research is contributing to informing a more general public.“

Dr Beverley Damonse (National Research Foundation Group Executive: Science Engagement and Corporate Relations)

"Wow!! This is an incredible achievement..... Massive!! ..... a very interesting tale and more importantly a historical record of SANAP."                                                                                  Prof. Isabelle Ansorge (Oceanographer, University of Cape Town)

“Excellent coverage!  Stunning pics!"                                         Dr Gansen Pillay (National Research Foundation: Deputy CEO)