Over time, Alaska has become synonymous with the idea of wilderness--nature, free and unspoiled. Yet while the concept of this open, untamed countryside--the "land of the midnight sun"--has a romantic appeal, the reality is quite different and often much more severe. Alaska is a place where communities are isolated, winters are long, and temperatures can freeze flesh as hard as a rock in minutes.
This book reveals hard facts, challenges simple assumptions, and transforms Alaska from a wistful idea to a real place with its own changing ecology, economies, society, and values. It includes essays by the group of scientists, writers, and artists who made an expedition to Alaska in 2001, tracing the historic route of railroad baron Edward H. Harriman's ambitious journey in 1899. Together, the group visited the diverse cultures, communities, and ecosystems of Alaska. In their accounts, they share their conversations with mayors, teachers, tribal leaders and elders, children, business owners, and conservationists in order to present Alaska as it is, not as it appears on airport posters and tourism brochures.
Organized by the ship's route with expedition logs providing a sense of place, the book addresses wilderness conservation biology and ecology, American history, natural history and anthropology, and travel and exploration. More specific topics include the repatriation of Native objects; tourism; forestry, fisheries, and marine mammals; John Muir's notion of beauty; the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on Prince William Sound; the legacy of Russian exploration; Alaska's glacial geography; the challenges faced by isolated communities living in harsh frontier environments; whale, salmon, seal, and seabird ecology; and possibilities for a sustainable future in Alaska.
Lavishly illustrated with gorgeous color and black-and-white photographs, The Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced is an ambitious exploration of America's northern wilderness, which we discover is far from frozen in time.