Sable Island: The Strange Origins and Curious History of a Dune Adrift in the Atlantic

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9780802714329: Sable Island: The Strange Origins and Curious History of a Dune Adrift in the Atlantic

The story of a small but deadly sand dune in the middle of the North Atlantic

Sable Island―one hundred miles due east of Nova Scotia, in the midst of the worst weather in the North Atlantic―is a thirty mile-long sand dune, uninhabited except by a couple of government agents who maintain an outpost and by bands of wild horses that have populated the island for more than two hundred years. Yet this small place illuminates grand and global themes, both human and natural.

There is evidence that Sable may have been discovered as early as the fifteenth century, and it has been the subject of several failed colonization efforts by Portugal, France, the Basques, and even a group of prominent Bostonians, including the uncle of John Hancock. For centuries before lifesaving global positioning technology, Sable terrorized legions of mariners crossing from Europe to America―more than five hundred ships have been wrecked on its shores, fully ten disasters for every mile of coastline. Sable is constantly moving, its beaches disappearing and reappearing in storms, its very body in slow motion to the east. Because of this, it is a metaphor for the way the planet governs itself, because to appreciate Sable is to understand the workings of the great ocean currents, the winds and the North Atlantic gale, and the forces of entropy. Impressive in the array of its knowledge, Sable Island is a lyrical ode to one of nature's wonders.

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About the Author:

Marq de Villers and Sheila Hirtle are co-authors of Sahara: The Extraordinary History of the World's Largest Desert and several other books on exploration, history, politics, and travel. Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource by Marq de Villiers won the prestigious Governor General's Award in Canada. De Villiers and Hirtle live in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

From Publishers Weekly:

This engaging natural history celebrates one of the world's most precarious landscapes, a sand spit 30 miles long and less than a mile wide, plunked down 100 miles from the Canadian coast. Continually gouged by wind and wave and stingily replenished with sand by the currents swirling around it, the evanescent but intractable island has wrecked hundreds of ships over the centuries while sheltering enough greenery and fresh water to maintain a herd of wild horses. De Villiers and Hirtle (coauthors of Sahara: The Extraordinary History of the World's Largest Desert) explore the geological and oceanographic forces that shaped and maintain the island and the flora and fauna that cling to it. They also examine its place in human history, regaling readers with tales of the shipwreck tragedies that darken its past and recalling the many odd little communities of castaways, lifeguards and scientists that have washed up on its beaches. The island and its environs are now threatened by oil and gas drilling, rising sea levels and an ominous drift toward the continental shelf and the deep-sea abyss beyond. But while it lasts, a dynamic equilibrium fleetingly perched atop titanic forces of nature, the island is an apt metaphor for life itself.
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