Launching the new Living Shores – A love story

By: Dr Judy Mann

By  hosting a series of presentations at SAAMBR in 2017 and 2018, we pay tribute to various people who have largely dedicated their lives to conservation through a range of different activities.

Last week SAAMBR was proud to host the KZN launch of the second edition of ‘The Living Shores’. The conference hall was packed as over 130 people arrived to hear the story of the book, and to meet the people behind the pages. But, this was more than just a book launch, this was a love story – a story of the love between Margo and George Branch, a couple who touched so many people’s lives through their first book ‘The Living Shores of Southern Africa’. It is also a story of their love for our oceans and all her creatures, their love for the beauty of nature and their love for the people who care for our oceans.

George and Margo Branch are firstly world famous marine scientists with hundreds of scientific publications to their name. George was a lecturer at UCT for many years and has supervised and mentored students, many of whom have gone into leadership positions in science and conservation around the world. A generation of marine biologists in South Africa are the product of George and Margo’s encouragement and support.

They are also authors and story tellers – they were doing marine education and science communication long before there was even a name for it. With the production of the first Living Shores, in 1981, George and Margo opened up a whole new world for South Africans. They brought the wonders of our oceans into the living rooms of people and introduced them to an exciting new world. Most coffee table books are just that – they stay on the table. The Living Shores became a treasured possession, a book to read and savour, a book to cherish.

The hallmark of the Living Shores is the way that it is written and illustrated – written in a style that everyone can understand, and beautifully illustrated with George’s photographs and Margo’s art. George and Margo are so good at telling their science stories that they do not need to hide behind jargon – they tell stories that we can all relate to, and most importantly, tell again and again. Their stories become our stories. Their stories reach our minds and our hearts.

At the launch, George and Margo Branch shared with us some of the fascinating stories from the book, gave us a glimpse into the some of what it took to produce the book and, importantly, showed us that their love for each other and our oceans has endured and grown through the years. George and Margo encouraged us to keep interested, to keep passionate and to never give up. As with the first edition, this second edition of the Living Shores will be book to treasure.