Exactly halfway between the equator and the South Pole is an area of the world marked by vast oceans and the strong winds of the "Roaring Forties". Just two tiny tracts of land bisect this imaginary line of 45 degrees south: the remote uninhabited plains and mountains of Argentina and Chile and the similar, but more hospitable South Canterbury, Central Otago and Fiordland of New Zealand's South Island.
This book is a view through the lens of Austrian-born photographer Arno Gasteiger, with supporting essays by novelist Laurence Fearnley, taking the journey east to west along the 45th parallel.
From the pebble-dashed shores of the South Pacific along the mouth of the Waitaki River where whitebait fisherman wade, we travel inland to the rolling hills of South Canterbury sheep country.
The journey continues into the historic gold fields, the golden granary basket giving way to the new gold of the Central Otago vineyards in the foothills of the Southern Alps.
We cross the southern extreme of the mountains, descending through rainforest and into the fiords that break through into the Tasman Sea.
Gasteiger's beautifully composed pictures are given extra perspective with Fearnley's part history lesson, part personal recollection and part social documentary. We learn and see how human activity has flourished and helped shape this sometimes benign, sometimes dramatic and always stunningly beautiful country. A truly unique part of the world.
The book is standard coffee-table fare: hard-back, quality paper, tasteful design in super-enlarged 35mm landscape format.
It is well-paced and achieves the double of informing and inspiring the reader: you really will want to go and visit this area.
There are a couple of improvements for my eye. A design feature that shows where you are on the journey passing through the pages would make some sense and a little more seasonal variety that included the extremes of a hot, dry summer and a harsh, cold winter.
For those of us who have yet to make time to visit yet another of this country's unique and rewarding regions, this is a pretty good stop-gap that should definitely find its way under a few trees this Christmas.
Photography by Arno Gasteiger, essays by Laurence Fearnley.
Penguin Books $65