Heartbeats in the Muck

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New York Harbor is a rich aquatic wilderness that surrounds the world's greatest city. Once a pristine estuary bristling with oysters and striped bass, visited by sharks, porpoises, and seals, the harbor suffered centuries of rampant environmental abuse; garbage dumping, oil spills, sewage sludge, pesticides, heavy metals, poisonous PCBs, landfilling, and dredging greatly diminished its life, in some places to nil. John Waldman chronicles this history, focusing on the animals, water quality, and habitats of the ...
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Overview


New York Harbor is a rich aquatic wilderness that surrounds the world's greatest city. Once a pristine estuary bristling with oysters and striped bass, visited by sharks, porpoises, and seals, the harbor suffered centuries of rampant environmental abuse; garbage dumping, oil spills, sewage sludge, pesticides, heavy metals, poisonous PCBs, landfilling, and dredging greatly diminished its life, in some places to nil. John Waldman chronicles this history, focusing on the animals, water quality, and habitats of the harbor, with personal accounts of the explorations of its farthest camp near the George Washington Bridge, the Arthur Kill (home of the resurgent heron colonies), the Hackensack Meadowlands, the darkness under a giant Manhattan pier, and the famously polluted Gowanus Canal. And his prognosis is a good one. Environmental action and awareness has allowed the harbor to begin cleaning itself. Although it will never regain its native biological glory, the return of oysters, striped bass, and a host of other creatures are symbols of what once seemed impossible - New York Harbor reborn. Heartbeats in the Muck is for readers who love probing and important books about natural history such as Beautiful Swimmers. (6 1/4 X 9 1/4, 180 pages, b&w photos)
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
You might or might not want to fish in the East River now. In 1850, though, it was a hot spot for anglers: an able dockworker once caught seven sharks in a day. "New York Harbor's vast network of moving or placid, fresh, brackish, and salt water" still holds a startling variety of marine life whose past, present and future Waldman surveys in this exemplary and compact work of popular ecology. Sometimes describing his own trips through creeks and up inlets, in the manner of John McPhee, Waldman (who edited Strippers: An Angler's Anthology) explains what sorts of marine life live in and near the Hudson, the East River and the Meadowlands, how engineering and shipping have affected them and how decreased pollution around New York has allowed various species to begin to return. Recent cleanups have made the waters around the city a magnet for wading birds, while "sea horses are common around Pier 26." Even dolphins, manatees and sea turtles have been spotted straying through area waters. Sometimes pollution has had ironic benefits. Industrial runoff in the Hudson actually helped increase its striped bass population: few people wanted to catch the PCB-laden fish, so more of them lived to breed. And the contaminants at the mouth of the Hudson helped preserve the wood of its piers, which are now under attack again from tiny animals called marine borers. Waldman also covers matters of infrastructure, concluding with looks at present and future construction around the water's edge, with an optimistic overview. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The 1500 square miles of New York Harbor comprise diverse flora and fauna, complicated tides, and wide temperature fluctuations. The harbor has been subjected to centuries of human activity resulting in water pollution and degradation of its natural environment: almost every part of the Harbor has been "drained, dredged, blasted, rerouted, tunneled or bridged." The author (Stripers: An Angler's Anthology), a biologist affiliated with the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research, outlines the history of the area, discussing such features as the New Jersey Meadowlands, the Gowanus Canal, and the various creeks and rivers flowing into the East River will be of great interest to those familiar with the region. Although A Natural History of New York City by John Kieran (1959) and The Hudson River (1979) provide more systematic treatment, Waldman's lively anecdotal text is well documented by citations to old maps and documents and historic photographs. With a four-page annotated bibliography; suitable for public libraries.--Judith Barnett, Pell Marie Sciences Lib., Univ. of Rhode Island, Kingston Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Ichthyologist Waldman traces the fate of the harbor from the 17th century, when it teemed with fish, porpoises, and whales through the rich oyster bed in the early 19th century to today's pollution and annual April warming that energizes bacteria to float the year's murders and suicides to the water's surface. He includes many old and new photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
Cook
a speedy, informative, entertaining read...Heartbeats's optimism lies in the form of wildlife's amazing adaptability.
The Village Voice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558217201
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/1999
  • Edition description: First
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.73 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2004

    Inspirational

    Perhaps not as much as it used to, New York City has always been dependent on its waterways. From the get-go in the early 17th Century, it was a port city. However, no sooner did development expand the city when the East and Hudson Rivers became sewers, dumping grounds for tanners, chandlers, and dyers. By the late 19th Century, the pollution extended all the way out to the Harbor, the Narrows, and then the Atlantic. John Waldman's HEARTBEATS IN THE MUCK traces this sad history and then, to the surprise of many readers, describes the comeback staged by these waterways. In a way, this book is quite inspirational, in as much is that it gives the reader hope that, when confronted with an ecological crisis, local and state governments can and will intervene, even if it needs to be put under pressure. Villains abound, but so do heroes, and the anecdotes about local seafarers do more than just entertain; they make you proud of them for their determination. Lastly, even to the most seasoned New Yorker, this little tome will provide information about his/her city's remarkably complex network of rivers, streams, 'kills', and canals. Having grown up near the Gowanus Canal, I remember how awful it smelled even on good days. Now, it is so clean, it seems strange. In any event, Mr. Waldman deserves a great deal of credit for his dogged research and his sea legs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2000

    Outstanding

    I loved this book, it was enchanting and magnificent account of the hudson river

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