Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, a Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster that Warns of a Warmer World

ISBN 10: 1586485156 / ISBN 13: 9781586485153
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Abby Sallenger's ISLAND IN A STORM has been chosen by Choice magazine of the American Library Association as an outstanding 2010 academic title.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Isle Derniere was emerging as an exclusive summer resort on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. About one hundred miles from New Orleans, it attracted the most prominent members of antebellum Louisiana society. Hundreds of affluent planters and merchants retreated to the island, not just for its pleasures, but also to escape the scourge of yellow fever epidemics that ravaged cities like New Orleans each summer. Then, without warning, on August 10, 1856, a ferocious hurricane swept across the island, killing half of its four hundred inhabitants. The Isle Derniere was left barren, except for a strange forest standing in the surf.

Drawing from a rich trove of newspaper articles, letters, diaries, and interviews, Abby Sallenger re-creates the chain of events that led a group of people to seek refuge on an exposed strip of land in the sea. He chronicles the dramatic course of the hurricane itself, as seen through the eyes of a diverse cast of real-life characters, including eighteen-year-old Emma Mille, her French father, a steamboat captain, a pastor, and a slave. Island in a Storm is the story of their bravery and cowardice, luck and misfortune, life and death.

At the heart of this narrative lies another, equally compelling, story. Sallenger, an oceanographer, traces the insidious link between the environmental deaths across the Mississippi delta and the human deaths that occurred when the storm swept ashore. The result is a fascinating portrait of a coast in perpetual motion and a rising sea that made the Isle Derniere particularly vulnerable to a great hurricane.

Ultimately, Island in a Storm is a cautionary environmental tale. Global warming is spreading the unique hazards of river deltas to coasts around the world, and the signs of what happened to Isle Derniere may soon be appearing on other islands. The account of this nineteenth-century disaster and its aftermath offers a vital historical lesson as we continue to develop precarious coastal locations whose vulnerability will only grow as sea levels rise across the globe.

About the Author: Abby (Asbury) Sallenger is an oceanographer who received his B.A. in Geology and Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Virginia. He is the former chief scientist of the U.S. Geological Survey's Center for Coastal Geology and is presently the leader of the USGS storm impact research team, studying the coastal impacts of hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, and Rita.

Abby's ISLAND IN A STORM, has been featured in the New York Times and NPR's Morning Edition. In January 2011, Choice magazine of the American Library Association named ISLAND IN A STORM a 2010 Outstanding Academic Title. In 2007, Abby received the U.S. Geological Survey's Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communications, and, in 2009, he received a "Special Award in Oceanography" from the National Hurricane Conference.

As an undergraduate at U.Va., Abby was a student athlete, playing four years of intercollegiate football. He and his wife live in Florida.

Email Abby at:
abbysallenger at gmail.com

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Title: Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, a Vanishing...
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