Check out this month's On the Web links, your connection to earth science friendly Web sites. The popular Geomedia feature is now available by topic.
Q&A: Author Frank Parchman
talks about his recent book Echoes of Fury. Print
Books: Riding the Great Lakes: A review of The Living Great Lakes
DVDs: Libby, Montana in review
Maps: Showcasing Gunnison Gorge
Living Great Lakes
by Jerry Dennis.
At the height of the industrial expansion of North America, the pollution of
the Great Lakes was widely accepted as unavoidable. The polluting industries
steel, chemicals, aluminum, soda ash and heavy manufacturing were
located on their shores to take advantage of the abundant water supply, access
to ports and inexpensive power. With the rare exception of Chicago, the cities
turned their backs to the lakes and largely put them out of mind.
Over the past few decades, the lakes have been rediscovered. Everywhere, cities are building new waterfront facilities, resorts have been revitalized, the voices of Native nations have been raised, and ancient traditions revived.
The commitment to revive the lakes was renewed at the first meeting of the Great Lakes Collaborative, borne of a presidential directive for all federal agencies with Great Lakes responsibilities to coordinate their activities. At this meeting in Chicago in late 2004, governors, mayors, commissioners and American Indian chiefs marched behind flags and bagpipes into a grand ballroom filled with environmental advocates, scientists, reporters and bureaucrats.
The well-orchestrated ritual centered on a hope and a promise. The hope was that the time had arrived when North Americas immense system of freshwater seas would finally receive their due recognition as one of the worlds greatest environmental treasures and that their care might become the aim of an international environmental restoration effort on a scale worthy of their grandeur and plight. The promise was that this group would lay out a common strategy with a set of priorities for action that would make such restoration efforts feasible. After signing a document pledging to work together toward these goals, each dignitary made a brief speech, and most contained some variant of the sentiment, at last.
Coincident with this meeting, I was reading The Living Great Lakes, by Jerry Dennis. While reading it, I also thought, at last. Finally, here is a book on the Great Lakes that is alive with a tone of awe and respect, one that presents the fascinating details of bathymetry and limnology, chemistry and biology, and meteorology and geography in the context of a great sailors story rather than in the dry tones of an atlas. Not since the old childrens book Paddle to the Sea, where a doll rode a toy canoe down perilous rapids and a lonely expanse of lake to the sea, have the Great Lakes been presented as the grand adventure they are.
This adventure takes place aboard the Malabar, a replica of the workhorse schooners that, at the beginning of the 20th century, carried vacationers and tourists from Great Lakes cities to the popular playgrounds of the Thousand Islands and Mackinac Island. In the late 1980s, investors thought that the lakes might once again attract people for pleasure cruises. But by the first years of the 21st century, that dream was abandoned.
And so the Malabar, its cement hull patched together by the colorful captain and his makeshift crew, makes one final sail from Michigan to the profitable tourist market along the coast of Maine. Ironically, the journey on which the author takes us is a farewell voyage. Its just the right metaphor for the books message: Take a close look at our lakes before theyre gone.
Theres nothing like a seagoing adventure to remind us of the capricious and unexpected mood-shifts of nature. Even more than most waters, the Great Lakes have a way of surprising us with sudden winds and fickle currents. Great Lakes mariners worked hard to know the lakes intimately, as their lives and the lives of their passengers depended on it.
And even as Dennis writes eloquently about the power and beauty of the lakes, he chronicles the many dangers that threaten their future: the steady influx of invasive plants and animals that hitch rides in the ballast of cargo ships, the rising pressure to remove water from the lakes to feed the thirst of expanding suburbs and perhaps someday drought-ravaged prairies, and the continuing flushing of industrial, agricultural and urban wastes from some of the largest U.S. and Canadian cities.
This book, while lighthearted and adventurous throughout, reminds us without preaching that our lives, too, depend on the lakes in more ways than we usually notice and its high time we got to know these waters with something like the respect and long-term commitment of seasoned sailors. I recommend that you go along for the ride and reintroduce yourself to the living and very much alive Great Lakes.
Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area (NCA) in western Colorado is one of
a number of protected regions recently created by Congress to preserve unique
and beautiful areas for future generations. The outstanding scenery, magnificently
exposed geologic formations and recreational opportunities within the Gunnison
Gorge NCA, such as kayaking, rafting, fishing, hunting, hiking and camping,
attract more than 10,000 visitors a year.
The Gunnison River canyon is in the heart of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area in western Colorado. A new poster (shown below), book and map highlight the geology, ecology and human history of the protected lands.
To showcase the geology of the scenic Gunnison Gorge NCA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently published a 1:45,000-scale map and companion book. Written and designed for members of the public, these colorful and richly illustrated publications still retain the scientific content to serve the needs of scientists and land managers.
The geologic map forms the centerpiece of an attractive poster that describes the geology, ecology and human history of the NCA. Information for the map mostly came from detailed geologic mapping by retired USGS geologist Wallace R. Hansen. The companion book, The Geologic Story of Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Colorado, includes color photographs and figures that highlight and explain many of the geologic features.
One intent of the map and book is to portray the NCA as a geology classroom in which nonscientists can learn basic geologic principles. As an aid to nonscientists, all technical terms used in the book are defined in a glossary. With the geologic map and book in hand, the reader can explore and learn about the igneous and metamorphic basement rocks that form the steep inner canyon and the colorful sedimentary rocks that unconformably overlie the basement rocks. Readers can also learn why all sedimentary rocks older than about 170 million years (Middle Jurassic) are missing in the NCA, as compared to other areas in Colorado; why the Gunnison River flows through the Gunnison uplift and not around it; the origin of the spectacular Ute Indian fault, which cuts through the center of the gorge; and the fascinating history of canyon cutting that has occurred during the past 2 million years.