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2 Burnside Botany- Flora of the Pacific Northwest
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This title in other editions

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed Cover

ISBN13: 9780393328646
ISBN10: 0393328643
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

Prologue: Driftwood

Small things are hard to find in Alaska, so when a marine biologist named Scott Walker stumbled across a wrecked kayak on an uninhabited island fifty kilometres north of the Canadian border, he considered himself lucky. The coastal boundary where Alaska and British Columbia meet and overlap is a jagged four-way seam that joins, not just a pair of vast - and vastly different - countries, but two equally large and divergent wildernesses. To the west is the gaping expanse of the North Pacific Ocean, and to the east is the infinity of mountains that forms the heart of what some in the Northwest call Cascadia. The coastline where these worlds meet and bleed into one another is sparsely inhabited and often obscured by fog, the mountains sheared off by low-lying clouds. At sea level, it is a long and convoluted network of deep fjords, narrow channels, and rock-bound islands. It is a world unto itself, separated from the rest of North America by the Coast Mountains, whose ragged peaks carry snow for most of the year. In some places their westward faces plunge into the sea so abruptly that a boat can be fifteen metres from shore and still have a hundred and fifty metres of water beneath her keel. The region is sporadically patrolled, being governed, for the most part, by seven-metre tides and processions of sub-Arctic storms that spiral down from the Gulf of Alaska to batter the long, tree-stubbled lip of the continent. Even on calm days, the coastline may be shrouded in a veil of mist as three thousand kilometres of uninterrupted Pacific swell pummels itself to vapour against the stubborn shore.

The combination of high winds, frequent fog, and tidal surges that can run over fifteen knots makes this coast a particularly lethal one, and when boats or planes or people go missing here, they are usually gone for good. If they are found, it is often by accident a long time later, and usually in a remote location like Edge Point where Scott Walker anchored his seventeen-foot skiff on a fair June afternoon in 1997 while doing a survey of the local salmon fishery. Edge Point is not so much a beach as an alpine boulder field that, at this point in geologic time, happens to be at sea level. It lies at the southern tip of Mary Island, a low hump of forest and stone that forms one side of a rocky, tide-scoured channel called Danger Passage; the nearest land is Danger Island, and neither place was idly named.

Like much of the Northwest Coast, Edge Point is strewn with driftwood logs and whole trees that may be a metre and a half in diameter and stacked twenty deep. Burnished to silver, this mass of wood, much of which has broken loose from log booms and transport barges, lies heaped as high as polar winds and Pacific waves can possibly throw it. Even if a man-made object should make it ashore here in one piece, it wont last long after it arrives; within the course of a few tide cycles, it will be hammered to pieces between the heaving logs and the immovable boulders beneath them. In the case of a fibreglass boat - such as a kayak - the destruction is usually so complete that it makes the craft hard to recognize, much less find. When a fibreglass yacht was found in a location similar to Edge Point three years after it had disappeared without issuing a distress signal, the largest surviving piece was half a metre long and that was only because it had been blown up into the bushes; the rest of the sixty-foot sloop had been reduced to fragments the size of playing cards. This is why Scott Walker considered himself fortunate: he wasnt too late; parts of the kayak might still be salvageable.

The beaches here serve as a random archive of human endeavour where a mahogany door from a fishing boat, the remains of a World War II airplane, and a piece from a fallen satellite are all equally plausible finds. Each artifact carries with it a story, though the context rarely allows for a happy ending; in most cases, it is only the scavenger who benefits. Scott Walker has been scavenging things that others have lost here for more than twenty-five years, and he has acquired an informal expertise in the forensics of flotsam and jetsam. If the found object is potentially useful or sufficiently interesting, and if it is small enough to lift, the beachcombers code will apply. Walker was abiding by this code when he happened upon the broken kayak and began tearing it apart for the stainless steel hardware.

But when Walker lifted his head from his work he noticed some things that gave him pause. Strewn farther down the tide line were personal effects: a raincoat, a backpack, an axe - and it was then that it occurred to him that his prize might not have simply washed off some beach or boat dock down the coast. The more he noticed - a cookstove, a shaving kit, a life jacket - the narrower the gap between his own good luck and someone elses misfortune became. This wasnt shaping up to be a clean find. Walker deduced from the heavier objects position lower down in the intertidal zone that the kayak had washed ashore and broken up on a low tide. The lighter objects, including large pieces of the kayak itself, had been carried farther up the beach by subsequent high tides and wind, and it was these that set off alarm bells in Walkers head. Despite being wrapped around a log, the sleeping bag was still in near-perfect condition; there were no tears or stains, no fading from the salt and sun; the life jacket, too, looked fresh off the rack. Even the cookstove appeared salvageable; wedged between rocks at the waters edge, it showed only minor rusting. Winter storm season, the most effective destroyer on the coast, had only just ended, so this wreck had to be recent, thought Walker, perhaps only a couple of weeks old. He debated throwing the stove and sleeping bag into his skiff, but then, after considering some possible accident scenarios and recalculating the uncomfortable distance between a strangers horror and his own delight, he decided to leave these things where they lay. Besides, he thought, they might be needed for evidence. No one would miss the stainless steel bolts, though, so he pocketed them and headed down the beach, looking for a body.

Walker never found one, and it was only through the Alaska state troopers in Ketchikan, fifty kilometres to the north, that he learned the story behind his chance discovery. The kayak and its owner, a Canadian timber surveyor and expert woodsman named Grant Hadwin, had been missing - not for weeks, but for months. This man, it seemed, was on the run, wanted for a strange and unprecedented crime.

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rdavisusf, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by rdavisusf)
A great combination of history and narrative.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780393328646
Author:
Vaillant, John
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Subject:
General
Subject:
Trees & Forests - General
Subject:
Plants - Trees
Subject:
Trees
Subject:
Nature Studies-Trees
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20060531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.3 x 5.5 x 0.9 in 0.8 lb

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Staff Picks
History and Social Science » Canada » British Columbia
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » General
Science and Mathematics » Botany » Flora of the Pacific Northwest
Science and Mathematics » Botany » Trees and Shrubs
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Forests
Science and Mathematics » Forestry » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Trees

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393328646 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The felling of a celebrated giant golden spruce tree in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands takes on a potent symbolism in this probing study of an unprecedented act of eco-vandalism. First-time author Vaillant, who originally wrote about the death of the spruce for the New Yorker, profiles the culprit, an ex-logger turned messianic environmentalist who toppled the famous tree — the only one of its kind — to protest the destruction of British Columbia's old-growth forest, then soon vanished mysteriously. Vaillant also explores the culture and history of the Haida Indians who revered the tree, and of the logging industry that often expresses an elegiac awe for the ancient trees it is busily clear-cutting. Writing in a vigorous, evocative style, Vaillant portrays the Pacific Northwest as a region of conflict and violence, from the battles between Europeans and Indians over the 18th-century sea otter trade to the hard-bitten, macho milieu of the logging camps, where grisly death is an occupational hazard. It is also, in his telling, a land of virtually infinite natural resources overmatched by an even greater human rapaciousness. Through this archetypal story of 'people fail[ing] to see the forest for the tree,' Vaillant paints a haunting portrait of man's vexed relationship with nature. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "This tragic tale goes right to the heart of the conflicts among loggers, native rights activists, and environmentalists, and induces us to more deeply consider the consequences of our habits of destruction."
"Review" by , "Mr. Vaillant is absolutely spellbinding when conjuring up the world of the golden spruce. His descriptions of the Queen Charlotte Islands, with their misty, murky light and hushed, cathedral-like forests, are haunting... The chapters on logging, painstakingly researched, make high drama out of the grueling, highly dangerous job of bringing down some of the biggest trees on earth."
"Review" by , "Make some more space on the shelf of Essential Northwest Books. John Vaillant has crafted a debut book that is a stunning look at this region's history and environment."
"Review" by , "A scrupulously researched narrative worthy of comparison to Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild."
"Review" by , "The case of the golden spruce is a fascinating eco-mystery that cuts right to the heart of modern settlement of the Pacific Northwest."
"Review" by , "Vaillant's start-and-stop narrative yields whiplash here and there, but he ably covers all the bases....Vaillant's tale of how it got to be so is of unfailing interest."
"Review" by , "A gracefully written, ambitiously researched and enthralling story of ecological majesty and human greed. It should enter that pantheon of memorable books that capture our region's character: a page-turner of a debut."
"Review" by , "Only a writer of Vaillant's skill could capture both aspects of their dying world in such a powerful way."
"Synopsis" by , A tale of obsession so fierce that a man kills the thing he loves most: the only giant golden spruce on earth.
"Synopsis" by , 'A tale of obsession so fierce that a man kills the thing he loves most: the only giant golden spruce on earth.\n

'

"Synopsis" by , When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest. Five months earlier, logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin had plunged naked into a river in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw. When his night's work was done, a unique Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with luminous golden needles, teetered on its stump. Two days later it fell.
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