'Bird Island was a trackless and tempestuous landscape, a wild land where natural forces reigned. As I stood on the mull of the hill, the fragile fortifications of the icebergs holding their line against the stormy seas below, my mind turned even further back, to riotous landscapes of prehistoric forests, jungled and unbroken, to times when nature alone transfigured the Earth, not the technologies of humanity.
Over 400 million years ago, the early clutch of exotic plants began their lustrous capture of the landscape. The first, monstrous forests emerged from giant horsetails, ferns taller than several men standing on one another's shoulders, and the simple, olive-green club mosses. After this grew the beautiful cycads and conifers, their nuts and kernels trumpeting their fertility, and giant ferns that sheltered little revolutionary blisters of pollen. These presaged the flowering beauty of our world, such as the exquisite, magnolia-like Archaeanthus linnenbergeri, ninety-eight million years ago, with its generous curls of petals and the dissected hearts of its leaves. And the buzz and dart of insects and birds, their lives strung on the scents and dusts and fruits of these early flowers.
No such wildernesses as these exist anywhere in the world today, not even on Bird Island. Our influence is too pervasive. But the Earth's astounding potential is there, recorded with almost photographic precision in its rocks, soils and ice. From these, we know of times and landscapes absolutely outlandish to our imaginings.'
From 'On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature'
By Melanie Challenger