2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
First of all, you need to know that I am a sucker for just about anything having to do with the sea in general, and of Monterey Bay in particular. With that said, this is not the first tale of changing tides and broadscale changes in Earth's history, e.g., The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, but this tale is different. This is a tale of the history of the decline and recovery of one of the world's premier places of natural beauty and biological diversity. And, Palumbi (The Director of Hopkins Marine Station) and Sotka manage it in less than 200 pages! By comparison, I read Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and it took about a year of chipping away at that tome to get through it. This tale, however, was one I was able to polish off in less than a week.
Palumbi and Sotka have done a masterful job of telling the story of the Monterey Bay's unnatural history...that is, its interactions with humans. They start by telling of early French voyages to the Bay during the age of Spanish control of California, of the vast diversity of sealife there, including all manner of marine mammals, fishes, kelp, and etc. While the Spanish looked landward, the French and those who followed them recognized the bounty of the sea in the Bay. Soon thereafter follows the sad tale of the commercial overexploitation of one marine species after another until the Bay's original ecosystem was hammered. First it was sea otters hunted for their pelts (if you are interested in reading more about this you may want to try Morning of Fire: John Kendrick's Daring American Odyssey in the Pacific). Then came whalers who found abundant gray and humpback whales in the Bay. Then it was fish, especially sardines, and the boom of sardine canneries in Monterey in the early 1900s. If these kinds of accounts of over-exploitation are of interest to you, I recommend The Unnatural History of the Sea. Anyway, the offal and waste from Monterey's cannery row eventually polluted the Bay, and ecologically Monterey Bay had hit close to rock bottom, literally, since even the giant kelp could no longer exist there. Then things started to change...the otters weren't extinct after all...and to hear about the rest you will have to read the book.
I have spent a good deal of time in Monterey and Pacific Grove, and I know a bit about its history, especially the part connected to marine biology (Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck, Hopkins Marine Station, and the Monterey Bat Aquarium), but this book tells the tales of earlier times, and amazing people, like Julia Platt. She sounds amazing.
Be advised that this book does not provide a comprehensive history of the towns of Monterey and Pacific Grove, CA, or of the natural history of the Bay. But, enough of both are included to provide the essntial framework needed to understand what happened to the Bay in the past, and what is happening there now. This story is, nevertheless, dear to me since I did my PhD field work at the Hopkins Marine Station when I was a student at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I, of course, also spent time at other locations around the Bay, including a LOT of time in Santa Cruz.
What is the future of the Bay? Well, as of right now it actually looks brighter that its recent past. You will have to read the book to find out why.
This is a solid telling, thanks Steve! I enjoyed it.
4 solid stars.