To The Arctic, by Florian Schulz (Braided River)
This hefty book featuring the large-format nature photography of Florian Schulz serves as a companion piece to the IMAX film of the same name. Consider it an IMAX movie you can hold in your lap, lingering over the stunning views of these Far North landscapes most of us will never see with our own eyes. Shot over the course of six years in all seasons and quality of light, Schulz’s obsession was abetted by 2,500 miles of rough travel on snow machines, rafting down icy rivers, mushing hundreds of miles by sled dog with Inuit guides, snorkeling in the Arctic Ocean, photographing from bush planes and voyaging on ice-going vessels in the far reaches of the planet. While the landscape photos amaze and inspire, it is Schulz’s wildlife portraits that form the heart of this volume. He has assembled a revealing Arctic bestiary: snowy owls on their ground nests, ringed seals resting near breathing holes, vast herds of caribou in migration, wolves on patrol, muskoxen facing blizzards, plus walrus, grizzly bear, falcons, belugas, Arctic fox and most strikingly, ursus maritimus, the sea bear.
Atlas of Yellowstone, by W. Andrew Marcus, et al (University of California Press)
I’m a regular explorer of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, a lover of natural history and field science and a map junkie, so the new 250-page Atlas of Yellowstone is manna from heaven to my eyes. Of course, I prefer to experience this magical corner of Montana and Wyoming in person, palpating the landscape, watching the wildlife, inhaling the peculiar blend of sagebrush and sulphur. But I also appreciate increasing my knowledge of any place through data sets, charts, maps and scientific queries. My inner geek rejoices, for not only is this dynamic book overflowing with analytical information, but it is also well-designed and pleasingly arranged on the page.
“Understanding the world of Yellowstone requires examining spatial scales ranging from microbial mats in a hot spring to content-wide dispersal of coyote,” explain the editors, “and looking at time scales ranging from the hours needed for a wildfire to blow up to the millions of years necessary for geologic processes.”
It took 10 years, dozens of cartographers and more than 100 expert contributors to produce this atlas, a remarkable accomplishment that marries modern GIS technology with the ancient art of mapmaking. I hope they turn their attention to the Pacific Northwest next!
The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960, by Douglas Brinkley (Harper)
As Shell Oil sails northwards toward the Arctic Ocean to drill the first-ever oil wells in the remote and unpredictable Chukchi and Beaufort Seas this summer, passions are once more inflamed regarding Alaska and how to best manage its bountiful natural resources. Best-selling historian Douglas Brinkley’s timely tome lays out the history of conservation in the 49th state, lingering over particularly dramatic episodes and fascinating characters like John Muir’s exploration of glaciers, Teddy Roosevelt’s creation of the Tongass, and Bob Marshall’s epic Arctic treks. Other legends of conservation history figure in the narrative as well—the Muries, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Gifford Pinchot, Ansel Adams, William O. Douglas—to the point the reader realizes that every great American thinker on the proper relationship between humans and nature has had to confront the issues inherent in Alaska. Brinkley, a natural storyteller, shows us where we’ve been with hopes of charting a wise course to where we want to go next.
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