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Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

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"If fresh water is a treasure, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. Superior is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound seven states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States; their surface area is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have
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The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

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Overview

"If fresh water is a treasure, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. Superior is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound seven states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States; their surface area is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have never visited them - who have never seen a squall roar across Superior or the horizon stretching unbroken across Michigan or Huron - have no idea how big they are. They are so vast that they dominate much of the geography, climate, and history of North America. In one way or another, they affect the lives of tens of millions of people." The Living Great Lakes is a complete book written about the history, nature, and science of these remarkable lakes at the heart of North America. From the geological forces that formed them, to the industrial atrocities that nearly destroyed them, to the greatest environmental success stories of our time, the lakes are portrayed in all their complexity.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his newest book, Dennis (From a Wooden Canoe) offers an engrossing description of being a crew member on the schooner Malabar on a six-week trip through the waters of Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Capt. Hajo Knuttel and other crew members such as Tim, the ship's creative cook, spring to life in this modern adventure tale. Dennis weaves anecdotes from his childhood, such as a family-fishing trip on Lake Michigan, together with informed commentary on the natural history of the lakes and the people who live there as well as evocative descriptions of the enchanting view of the forests along Lake Superior from the schooner. His narrative is a continual reminder of the dangers inherent in navigating the waters of these magnificent lakes as he details their current condition; he explains that in the 1970s, Lake Erie's waters were saved from an ecological disaster by a public outcry, yet other waters are still in danger from commercial dumping. But all does not go smoothly for the Malabar; Dennis's narrative takes on an air of adventure when, toward the end of the trip, the Malabar and its crew encounter a terrifying storm. Photos not seen by PW. Regional author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Dennis (It's Raining Frogs and Fishes) takes a comprehensive look at the Great Lakes, delving into the cultural and natural history of this vast inland body of fresh water. In part a journal of his six-week voyage through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean on a 100' schooner, it is also the story of the geological forces that scoured the lake basins, the early Jesuit and French explorers, and Dennis's own history of growing up on Lake Michigan. The author moves seamlessly between the events of the journey-e.g., struggling to keep from capsizing during a sudden squall on Lake Erie-to events of the past, such as his participation in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race. We follow the fishing industry through its ups and downs, hear disastrous tales of shipwrecks, and are alerted to environmental hazards resulting from years of unrestricted dumping of wastes. Those who enjoyed William Least Heat-Moon's River-Horse will want to read this book. Essential for regional collections and a fine addition to any public library.-Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ. Lib., Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Nature writer Dennis (From a Wooden Canoe, 1999, etc.) enlivens his fine guide to the Great Lakes with a storyteller’s sense of pacing, savvily blending the factual with the picaresque. "Though I've lived near the Great Lakes most of my life," he admits, "there came a day a few years ago when I realized how little I knew about them. To get better acquainted, I drove around each of their shores." More than once, in fact, with frequent dallyings. Dennis spends a good amount of time on both developed and wild waterfronts, telling of the broad and curious array of people who lived there, tracking from the Paleolithic past through to the industries of sand and salt and honeycomb stone, describing the evolution of coastal geomorphology whose vivid geology is matched by an equally vivid history of bad weather. He spends even more time out on top of the waterscape aboard the schooner Malabar. These are burly waters with their own weather systems and tragic tales resulting therefrom, as well as a thousand landscapes to pass as the Malabar, sails from the author’s hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, to New York City. Dennis writes about them all in polished and alluring prose—not fancy, but not homespun either, just comfortably well worn. To explore sections of the lakes he doesn't visit on the Malabar he employs other means, from canoeing the northern shore of Superior to swimming off the shore of his house on Leelanau Peninsula. He threads environmental history throughout, from the utter degradation of the mid-20th century, when the US all but wrote the lakes off as dead, to what can cautiously be considered their resurrection, although the water’s clarity is mostly due to the zebra mussel,which trails botulism, toxic algae, and species loss in its wake. An enticing homecoming party for the Great Lakes, with a welcome-back for some readers and an invitation for others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312251932
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.62 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Jerry Dennis writes about nature and the outdoors for such publications as Sports Afield, Gray's Sporting Journal, and The New York Times. His previous books have been widely praised and have been translated into five languages. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Lake Michigan 1
Ch. 2 Lake Michigan 11
Ch. 3 Lake Michigan 25
Ch. 4 Lake Michigan 41
Ch. 5 The Straits of Mackinac 68
Ch. 6 Lake Superior 79
Ch. 7 Lake Superior 101
Ch. 8 Lake Huron 116
Ch. 9 St. Clair River/Detroit River 136
Ch. 10 Detroit River/Lake Erie 155
Ch. 11 Lake Erie 175
Ch. 12 Lake Michigan 191
Ch. 13 Lake Ontario 202
Ch. 14 Erie Canal/Hudson River 219
Ch. 15 The Atlantic 239
Ch. 16 Lake Michigan 255
Notes 265
Acknowledgments 287
Index 289
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Reading Group Guide

If fresh water is to be treasured, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. One of them, Superior, is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound seven states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Their surface area of 95,000 square miles is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have never visited them — who have never seen a squall roar across Superior or the horizon stretch unbroken across Michigan or Huron — have no idea how big they are. They are so vast that they dominate much of the geography, climate, and history of North America. In one way or another, they affect the lives of tens of millions of people.

The Living Great Lakes is the most complete book ever written about the history, nature, and science of these remarkable lakes at the heart of North America. From the geological forces that formed them to the industrial atrocities that nearly destroyed them, to the greatest environmental success stories of our time, the lakes are portrayed in all their complexity. The book, however, is much more than just history. It is also the story of the lakes as told by biologists, fishermen, sailors, and others whom the author grew to know while traveling with them on boats and hiking with them on beaches and islands.

The book is also the story of a personal journey. It is the narrative of a six-week voyage through the lakes and beyond as a crewmember on a tallmasted schooner, and a memoir of a lifetime spent on and near the lakes. Through storms and fog, on remote shores and city waterfronts, the author explores the five Great Lakes in all seasons and moods and discovers that they and their connecting waters — including the Erie Canal, the Hudson River, and the East Coast from New York to Maine — offer a surprising and bountiful view of America. The result is a meditation on nature and our place in the world, a discussion and cautionary tale about the future of water resources, and a celebration of a place that is both fragile and robust, diverse, rich in history and wildlife, often misunderstood, and worthy of our attention.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2010

    Fantastic read

    I absolutely loved reading this book. I have grown up around Lake Michigan and I never knew all the history. This is a book that I will suggest to everyone I know. :) Especially those who live around any of the Great Lakes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    Superb book

    If you grew up near the Great Lakes, visited them, or are interested this is a book for you. This book is so well written, including lots of history and science written in a way that makes it easy to read. I was sad when it was done. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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