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Publishers WeeklyJ Harlen Bretz was an unusual geologist: more than a maverick-turned-icon, more than a conscientious and thorough field worker, and more than a demanding professor, he also had a remarkable sense of humor and the strength to persevere despite professional obloquy. Author Soennichsen (Live! From Death Valley) delivers a vivid portrait of the man whose pioneering work began by accident, when a 1921 summer field trip to the Cascade Mountains fell through. Instead, Bretz led his students on foot through the Washington Scablands around Spokane, and returned every summer after with his students and family to map, measure, and record the unique terrain-including the gigantic "ship" of eroded basalt at Grand Coulee and the dried remains of the world's largest waterfall. Bretz's conclusions, of a massive flood unlike anything ever observed, met with intense opposition (largely from those who never observed the Scablands in person). Only over time, and with the advent of aerial photography, were Bretz's ideas confirmed; it's now known that glacial Lake Missoula drained dozens of times, each time unleashing a vast flood across the Pacific Northwest. Soennichsen's book explores a fascinating life in science, and should have appeal for Pacific Northwesterners and science buffs. 20 b&w photos.
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