Synopses & Reviews
When Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971, eighty million acres were flagged as possible national park land. Field expeditions were tasked with recording what was contained in these vast acres. Under this decree, five men were sent into the sprawling, roadless interior of Alaska, unsure of what theyandrsquo;d encounter and ultimately responsible for the fate of four thousand pristine acres.
Life and Times of a Big River follows Peter J. Marchand and his team of biologists as they set out to explore the land that would ultimately become the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Their encounters with strange plants, rare insects, and little-known mammals bring to life a land once thought to be static and monotonous. And their struggles to navigate and adapt to an unforgiving environment capture the rigorous demands of remote field work. Weaving in and out ofand#160;Marchandand#39;s narrative is an account of the natural and cultural history of the area as it relates to the expedition and the regionandrsquo;s Native peoples. Life and Times of a Big Riverand#160;chorincles this riveting, one-of-a-kind journey of uncertainty and discovery from a disparate (and at one point desperate) group of biologists.
In his square-sterned canoe, Alaskan author Dan ONeill set off from Dawson, Yukon Territory, onetime site of the Klondike gold rush, to trace the majestic Yukon River. His journey downriver to Circle City, Alaska, is an expedition into the history of the river and its land, and a record of the inimitable and little known inhabitants of the region. With the distinct perspective of an insider, A Land Gone Lonesome gives us an intelligent, rhapsodic-and ultimately, probably the last-portrait of the Yukon and its authentic inhabitants.
In his square-sterned canoe, Alaskan author Dan O'Neill set off down the majestic Yukon River, beginning at Dawson, Yukon Territory, site of the Klondike gold rush. The journey he makes to Circle City, Alaska, is more than a voyage into northern wilderness, it is an expedition into the history of the river and a record of the inimitable inhabitants of the region, historic and contemporary. A literary kin of John Muir's Travels in Alaska and John McPhee's Coming into the Country, A Land Gone Lonesome is the book on Alaska for the new century. Though he treks through a beautiful and hostile wilderness, the heart of O'Neill's story is his exploration of the lives of a few tough souls clinging to the old ways-even as government policies are extinguishing their way of life. More than just colorful anachronisms, these wilderness dwellers-both men and women-are a living archive of North American pioneer values. As O'Neill encounters these natives, he finds himself drawn into the bare-knuckle melodrama of frontier life-and further back still into the very origins of the Yukon river world. With the rare perspective of an insider, O'Neill here gives us an intelligent, lyrical-and ultimately, probably the last-portrait of the river people along the upper Yukon.
An Alaskan author's genuine portrait of the land along the Yukon River
Life and Times of a Big River
weaves together the fascinating cultural and natural history of interior Alaska through the story of a field expedition conducted by 5 biologists in a 4000-square-mile, roadless area of interior Alaska. The expedition was ordered by the United States government following the signing into law of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and was to help decide the fate of a vast area that would ultimately become the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.
And yet this is a human story, related through the personal experiencesand#151;the uncertainties, discoveries, accidents, and encounters with othersand#151;recorded by this disparate (and at one point desperate) group of biologists. Weaving in and out of this narrative is an account of the natural and cultural history of the area, told as it related to the expedition and to people living in the bush. The five scientists explore every aspect of the land itself: from fossil tree ferns to rare insects and little-known mammals, deciphering a record of change in a land often thought of as static and monotonous. Against this background the history of both aboriginal and Anglo exploitation and adaptation to a very demanding environment is also told. In the context of the expedition, the natural and cultural history takes on an uncommon relevance and insight.
This expedition may well represent the last of its kind, conducted before the explosion of satellite communications and geographic positioning technology forever changed scientific field work in remote regions.
About the Author
Peter J. Marchand
is a field biologist who studies forest, tundra, and desert landscapes. He is the author of Autumn: A Season of Change
, Nature Guide to the Northern Forest
, Life in the Cold
and The Bare-toed Vaquero
. He lives in Penrose, Colorado.
Table of Contents
Prologue. Traveling heavy
The work of ice * Library in stone * A proposal to blow up Cape Thomspon * Village on the edge of wild
II. Flat Water
Five men and a dog * Dancing forest * Kutchin under siege * Salmon for Swedes
Mosquito wars * Sagebrush saga * Reindeer to the rescue * Bear stories Iandrsquo;d never heard before
Circleandrsquo;s unwelcome committee * A river running slush * Pygmy shrews and a giant club moss * Permafrost permutations
V. Charley River
Lost in the clouds * Searching for Garrett * The high price of squirrel meat * An experiment I never want to repeat
Thieving pikas and singing voles * Fortymile caribou * Tales the three-rings tell * Truth is a chameleon
VII. The Years After
Death without reason * Mother of all summers * Plants on the move * Changing fortunes of moose and men