Telling Our Way to the Sea: A Voyage of Discovery in the Sea of Cortez

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A luminous and revelatory journey into the science of life and the depths of the human experience


By turns epic and intimate, Telling Our Way to the Sea is both a staggering revelation of unraveling ecosystems and a profound meditation on our changing relationships with nature—and with one another.

When the biologists Aaron Hirsh and Veronica Volny, along with their friend Graham Burnett, a historian of science, lead twelve college students to a remote fishing village on the Sea of Cortez, they come upon a bay of dazzling beauty and richness. But as the group pursues various threads of investigation—ecological and evolutionary studies of the sea, the desert, and their various species of animals and plants; the stories of local villagers; the journals of conquistadors and explorers—they recognize that the bay, spectacular and pristine though it seems, is but a ghost of what it once was. Life in the Sea of Cortez, they realize, has been reshaped by complex human ideas and decisions—the laws and economics of fishing, property, and water; the dreams of developers and the fantasies of tourists seeking the wild; even efforts to retrieve species from the brink of extinction—all of which have caused dramatic upheavals in the ecosystem. It is a painful realization, but the students discover a way forward.

After weathering a hurricane and encountering a rare whale in its wake, they come to see that the bay's best chance of recovery may in fact reside in our own human stories, which can weave a compelling memory of the place. Glimpsing the intricate and ever-shifting web of human connections with the Sea of Cortez, the students comprehend anew their own place in the natural world—suspended between past and future, teetering between abundance and loss. The redemption in their difficult realization is that as they find their places in a profoundly altered environment, they also recognize their roles in the path ahead, and ultimately come to see one another, and themselves, in a new light.
In Telling Our Way to the Sea, Hirsh's voice resounds with compassionate humanity, capturing the complex beauty of both the marine world he explores and the people he explores it with. Vibrantly alive with sensitivity and nuance, Telling Our Way to the Sea transcends its genre to become literature.

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About the author

Aaron Hirsh is chair of the Vermilion Sea Institute. He is a research associate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and his essays have appeared in literary journals, The New York Times, and The Best American Science Writing. Hirsh cofounded the biotechnology company InterCell and serves on the board of Roberts and Company Publishers. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Aug 6, 2013
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9781429947930
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Ecosystems & Habitats / Oceans & Seas
Science / Environmental Science
Travel / Essays & Travelogues
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The true story of an incredible disaster and heroic rescue at sea told by two masterful storytellers.

In the winter of 1952, New England was battered by the most brutal nor'easter in years. As the weather wreaked havoc on land, the freezing Atlantic became a wind-whipped zone of peril.

In the early hours of Monday, February 18, while the storm raged, two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, found themselves in the same horrifying predicament. Built with "dirty steel," and not prepared to withstand such ferocious seas, both tankers split in two, leaving the dozens of men on board utterly at the Atlantic's mercy.

The Finest Hours is the gripping, true story of the valiant attempt to rescue the souls huddling inside the broken halves of the two ships. Coast Guard cutters raced to the aid of those on the Fort Mercer, and when it became apparent that the halves of the Pendleton were in danger of capsizing, the Guard sent out two thirty-six-foot lifeboats as well. These wooden boats, manned by only four seamen, were dwarfed by the enormous seventy-foot seas. As the tiny rescue vessels set out from the coast of Cape Cod, the men aboard were all fully aware that they were embarking on what could easily become a suicide mission.

The spellbinding tale is overflowing with breathtaking scenes that sear themselves into the mind's eye, as boats capsize, bows and sterns crash into one another, and men hurl themselves into the raging sea in their terrifying battle for survival.

Not all of the eighty-four men caught at sea in the midst of that brutal storm survived, but considering the odds, it's a miracle—and a testament to their bravery—that any came home to tell their tales at all.

Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman have seamlessly woven together their extensive research and firsthand interviews to create an unforgettable tale of heroism, triumph, and tragedy, one that truly tells of the Coast Guard's finest hours.
“Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, so beware, beware,” goes the chorus of an old sailors’ sing-along that celebrates the allure and danger of the seafaring life. But make no mistake–there truly is much to beware for those who are drawn to risk their lives and seek their fortunes upon the waves. And perhaps none take more chances than the men and women who brave the tempestuous, bountiful waters of the Bering Sea. Season after season, they bond and battle with its icy depths, determined to reap yet one more rewarding harvest while eluding the ever-present threat of sudden, certain death. And among the rapidly diminishing ranks of these die-hard salts, brothers Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand have forged a reputation as fierce masters of their treacherous, enthralling trade. If you’ve watched their exploits on TV’s Deadliest Catch, you’ve only scratched the surface. To read Time Bandit is to step into their skins, smell the sea air, feel the frigid wind, and know with all your senses the exhilarating, and terrifying life on the edge.

Natives of tiny, fishing hamlet, Homer, Alaska; sons of a hard-bitten, highly successful fisherman; and born with brine in their blood, the Hillstrand boys couldn’t imagine a life without a swaying deck underfoot and a harvest of mighty Alaskan king crabs waiting to be pulled from the ocean floor. In pursuit of their daily catch, the brothers brave ice floes and heaving waves 60 feet high, the perils of 1000-lb steel traps thrown about by the punishing wind, and the constant menace of the open, hungry water.

Even the brothers’ downtime on land–where the deadly realities of the unforgiving sea are never far from their minds–is lived as if borrowed: fast and hard, haunted by the knowledge that the next season at sea could end asleep in the deep.

Here is the Hillstrands’ own heartfelt hymn to the brutally hard, gloriously independent, and mysteriously soul-satisfying life that has earned them their daily bread and defined their existence. By turns raucous and reflective, exhilarating and anguished, enthralling, suspenseful, and wise, Time Bandit chronicles a larger-than-life love affair as old as civilization itself–a love affair between striving, willful man and inscrutable, enduring nature.


From the Hardcover edition.
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