Over the Coasts: An Aerial View of Geology


Geology comes alive as Michael Collier flies over North America's coasts.

Geology usually takes its time — about a few million years, generally. Yet there is one place where the geological processes often occur right before our eyes: along the coastline of a great body of water.

The latest book in this acclaimed series takes the reader on aerial tours over the coastlines of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, Great ...

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2009 Hardcover Very Good in Good jacket 1931414424.

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Geology comes alive as Michael Collier flies over North America's coasts.

Geology usually takes its time — about a few million years, generally. Yet there is one place where the geological processes often occur right before our eyes: along the coastline of a great body of water.

The latest book in this acclaimed series takes the reader on aerial tours over the coastlines of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, Great Lakes and Alaska. Along these coasts the earth is in perpetual motion, for example:

  • Barrier islands are constantly torn apart and reshaped by violent storms
  • Powerful waves jackhammer rocks into smithereens, carving coastal cliffs
  • Deltas, marshes, beaches, dunes, bays, lagoons, estuaries and fjords are created and recreated by the action of water against land.

Over the Coasts combines beautiful images with natural history and makes geological science readily accessible to the general reader. Science that is most apparent in these spectacular aerial portraits of our restless coasts.

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Editorial Reviews

National Science Teachers Association Recommends
Selection, NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books 2010
Come fly along our North American coastal landscapes. Observe the results of the forces of tides, wind, waves, and weather in shaping them. This gorgeous book invites inquiry with its detailed and carefully selected images. The author is also a pilot, inviting readers to accompany him on his journeys to learn more about the geology of coastal areas and barrier islands. The text is stunningly enhanced with his color photography. He also introduces observers to the effects of human structures on coastal landforms. It's easy to imagine this book in an "inquiry corner" where students observe carefully to find the answers to specific geology questions. Maps, a glossary, and a sound index support these sorts of lessons.
Science News - Sid Perkins
Where the land meets the sea, land can be shaped quickly, as revealed in dramatic, ever-changing scenery. In evocative words and stunning images, aerial photographer and geologist Michael Collier chronicles changes that have occurred—and are occurring—along North American coasts: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico... The vivid text accompanying the beautiful photographs make Over the Coasts as much as informative geology primer as it is an attractive coffee-table book.
Award-winning photographer Michael Collier provides an educational glimpse at how the forces of nature sculpt the landscape. The only way to fully appreciate these dramatically beautiful sights is with a bird's eye view and Collier was simply born to fly. His expertly crafted aerial images are paired with highly informative text, which makes this book an amazing treat for both the eyes and the mind.
The Leading Edge, publication of the Society of Ex - David Bartel
Michael Collier has used his experience as a pilot to fly the coasts of the United States to take stunning photographs of the coast line from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and north to Alaska.... What Collier offers in this book are some wonderful photographs with geologically oriented commentary to help explain why each coast is different [and] addresses the human presence on the coast.... This is a beautiful picture book, not a geological treatise. But it is still wonderful to "read" the pictures. There isn't much text, but I see the personal experience of the author, and the geologic understanding that he has of what he is photographing. The book offers an interesting viewpoint: to help explain the geologic processes that are happening today, and happened yesterday in the rocks we explore for.
About.com - Andrew Alden
Michael Collier's franchise in beautiful, deeply informed aerial geologic photography continues with Over the Coasts as his expert eye brings us the incomparable shores of the North American continent. You'll read this once to drink in the photographs, once more to absorb the text, then again and again.
Rangefinder Magazine - Peter Skinner
It would be hard to imagine a more eminently qualified person than Collier, who is a doctor, photographer, writer, geologist and pilot, to produce such a visually stimulating and enlightening book on the subject.... Collier's aerial portraits of these environments capture their moods and essence in ways not possible from eye-level. Wonderful abstract patterns of river deltas and gently meandering waterways contrast with powerful ocean waves bashing rocky bulwarks; slivers of sand islands stand as sentinels in seemingly tranquil waters that are imperceptibly yet relentlessly gnawing away at the fragile shores. The book is packed with wonderful photographs and a wealth of information that makes interesting and informative reading. Collier's way with words is entertaining; information about the vast array of geological processes that shape our world is presented in easy-to-read layman terminology... You don't have to be a scientist to be captivated by this book.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Geologist, photographer, author and pilot Collier presents a third volume of aerial photography (following Over the Mountains and Over the Rivers), this time examining coastal processes: how waves interact with promontories, dunes, sand spits, barrier islands and human constructions. Collier describes basic wave behavior-how they're generated, how they move-as well as more unfamiliar phenomena like active and passive plate margins in his initial overview. The next section is regional, featuring the Gulf of Mexico, the Southern and Northern Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Pacific and Alaska, explaining how these coastlines' formation affected the resulting landforms. Collier then looks at the human footprint: expensive beach houses built on impermanent barrier islands, artificial islands formed by dredging, hazardous runoff from industrial and residential development, and damaging recreational implements like dune buggies. Coastal wetlands make a familiar (dis)appearance; many have been lost forever to negligence and development, just as their enormous importance becomes clear. Spot maps, a continental overview map, and a helpful glossary are all included, as well as a short reading list worth pursuing should this beautiful, informative volume intrigue.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931414425
  • Publisher: Mikaya Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 12.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Collier has won the National Outdoor Book Award, the National Park Service Director's Award and the U.S. Geological Survey's Communications Award. In 2005 he received the American Geological Institute's Outstanding Contribution to Public Understanding of Geosciences Award for his decades of work. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Poetry of Water, Dance of Sand

Coasting Around the Continent

Gulf of Mexico
Southern Atlantic
Northern Atlantic
Great Lakes

The Human Presence

A Solace of Wings

Photo Locations
Recommended Reading

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Coastlines that separate deep ocean from dry continent are blessed with an astonishing array of moods — angry, serene, tense, placid, explosive, confused. How could sunrise glowing upon the waters of Cape Cod Bay be any more peaceful? How could the winter waves of a frothy-mawed monster rage any more wildly against the cliffs of California's Forgotten Coast?

No other environment varies as rapidly or continuously as the coast. Waves redefine beaches second by second. Tides roll the boundary between land and sea back and forth between their fingers every day. Since the ice ages began two million years ago, sea levels around the world have risen and fallen by hundreds of feet, as if the oceans were breathing in and then out. And over hundreds of millions of years, the earth's interior has repeatedly shrugged in its sleep, crumpling up mountain ranges and displacing shorelines by many miles. Change,
whether measured in seconds or millennia, is the norm for coastal environments.

For years I've reveled in an aerial view of the earth. Sometimes, flying west at sunset, it seems that the world is small and that daylight could last forever. But my flying career got off to a rocky start. It was 1972. I'd spent many evenings walking the beaches of central California, sieving sand with my fingers, pondering the waves at my feet. I was mesmerized by the ocean, seduced by its water. When I climbed a 200-foot cliff behind the beach north of Point Arguello, my imagination flew west toward the horizon. I came up with the bird-brained idea of leaping off that cliff, nominally supported by a hang glider I'd just purchased secondhand — no questions asked, no instructions given. The first and final sortie involved multiple crashes at 40-foot intervals on my way down the cliff. I found myself lying on a beach, upside down, tangled in guy-wires, shaking with laughter at my foolishness. The beach sand felt good between my unbroken toes.

An inauspicious beginning, to be sure, but the ill-fated flight nevertheless struck a chord that continues to resonate. An earthbound bond was broken and I've never looked back. I've since learned to fly a little better, and with this book I want to share that aerial vantage point. I want to retell from the air the stories of an endlessly energetic ocean whose tides, waves, surges and storms have been shaping shorelines for billions of years.

Once there were no oceans. Four and a half billion years ago, six sextillion metric tons of meteors, comets, and assorted space debris coalesced into a sterile ball called Earth. Heat first generated by this compaction gradually dissipated while heavy minerals like iron and nickel migrated inward to form the planet's core. That initial burst of warmth would have lasted only a few tens of millions of years, but new fires of radioactive decay provided an internal source of heat that continues to this day. In the beginning, the earth was a lonely lump of molten matter with a barren surface that gradually solidified into crust. There were no shorelines because there were no oceans. No seas, no lakes, no rivers. No free water.

Then, as the crust cooled, minerals reorganized, releasing a variety of gases including hydrogen and oxygen that formed H20. Unlike our smaller neighboring planets, Earth's mass (and therefore its gravity) was sufficient to prevent solar winds from ripping away most of these nascent gases. Volcanoes belched sulphurous gusts, creating a toxic but moisture-bearing primordial atmosphere. Clouds formed and rain began to fall. Ice-ball asteroids slammed into the young earth, adding more water to puddles that grew into lakes, maybe into seas. Water was accumulating, a first step toward forming oceans and shorelines as we know them today.

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