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Steller's Island: Adventures of a Pioneer Naturalist in Alaska Paperback – October 1, 2006


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Steller's Island: Adventures of a Pioneer Naturalist in Alaska + Where the Sea Breaks Its Back: The Epic Story of Early Naturalist Georg Steller and the Russian Exploration of Alaska + Journal of a Voyage with Bering, 1741-1742
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"..Makes the Lewis Clark Expedition more than 60 years later sound like a trip to the shopping mall.." -- Portland Oregonian, January 21,2007

"..reveals the natural beauty of Alaska the way Steller saw it more than two centuries ago" -- Alaska Airlines

"A wide audience will find this absorbing.." -- --The Midwest Book Review

"Author and naturalist Dean Littlepage gives the tenacious Steller his due in Steller's Island, -- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (syndicated)

"Hikers, historians, and conservationists will appreciate Littlepage's well-researched, thought-provoking narrative." -- Wilderness Medicine magazine

"Littlepage masterfully illustrates the bitter ironies of Steller's legacy." -- Bookmonger

"Littlepage provides a gripping and vivid account of the struggles the surviving crewmen endured" -- Fairbanks Daily News

"Littlepage's own expertise in outdoor journalism [is] on display here...." -- Natural History Magazine

"Author and naturalist Dean Littlepage gives the tenacious Steller his due in Steller's Island," -- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (syndicated)

"Historian and adventurer Dean Littlepage reveals the fascinating final few years of one of the great, and least known, naturalist." -- The Seattle Times

About the Author

Dean Littlepage served as a special exhibits curator for the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. The author of Hiking Alaska, his articles have appeared in Orion, Backpacker, Alaska Geographic, and the Anchorage Daily News, among other publications.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Mountaineers Books; First American Edition edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594850577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594850578
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Fritz R. Ward VINE VOICE on December 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ever since the publication of Thomas Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions' science history has been preoccupied with changing paradigms and social influence upon scientific thought. This focus has offered many benefits, but a decided negative is that there are fewer traditional biographies of significant but forgotten scientists. This short volume by Dean Littlepage is an exception to the rule. A throwback to an older style of historiography, it is an excellent account of the life and contributions of Georg Steller, the first naturalist to write an account of the Northwestern Pacific Coast.

Georg Steller was a German naturalist, a predecessor of Linneaus, and a member of the early Russian expeditions to map the Pacific coast of North America. Steller was a multi-talented product of the Enlightenment. He spoke several languages and received formal training in theology, medicine, and biology. After teaching in Germany for a short stint, he moved to Russia and joined the newly formed Russian Academy of Science. He joined Captain Bering (for whom the Bering strait is named) and in a visit to Kayak Island began the first scientific exploration of the Northwest. But Steller was much more than just a talented naturalist (he collected 140 specimens in a mere 6 hours on Kayak Island.) He was also an extraordinary physician who correctly hypothesized that a diet heavy in green vegetables would fend of scurvy centuries before the discovery of vitamin C. His scientific background ultimately saved the crew of the St. Peter, Bering's ship, in the face of disaster. The challenges facing the crew shipwrecked for the winter are truly gripping and it is hard to put the book down as Littlepage recounts this period.

This book makes a for a fascinating read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on December 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
Georg Steller was a German scientist who eventually went to Russia and became a naturalist on Vitus Bering's second expedition to eastern Siberia and the eastern Arctic.

He identified hundreds of plant species in just a few hours of landfall on an Alaskan island. He also was the first European to closely examine animals such as the Steller's sea lion, Steller's sea cow (now extinct) and others.

Unfortunately, many of his research samples didn't make it back to Russia. Bering's flagship, St. Peter, became separated from his other ship, St. Paul, on the way east to Alaska. And, it didn't make it all the way back to Kamchatka. Eventually, after wintering on a sub-arctic island, the crew made a small hooker out of St. Peter's remains and completed the trip.

The crew who were left, that is. Many died from scurvy, though Steller saved many others with his knowledge of plants, and observation of Siberian and Aleut customs.

The remaining crew forced Steller to leave behind his specimen slides and his dissected sea cow, among other things. He wrote up what he could after getting back to European Russia, but his samples were lost forever.

An excellent book on science, natural history, and Arctic exploration, all in one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. Freeman on February 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Interesting account of Steller's explorations, juxtaposed with a modern journey -- reminds me in that sense of Jonathan Waterman's Mount St. Elias book, which is also recommended. Contains information on Pacific Northwest wildlife, but also on native people, shipwrecks, truly stupid explorer mistakes, and more; entertainingly written. Kind of makes one think, to realize how many species either barely survived the advent of Europeans or didn't survive at all, and to be reminded how many of them are in danger again today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Stout on April 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
Traveling the breadth of Russia and sailing east from Kamchatka with Bering across the north Pacific, Steller encounters frustrating, and at times harrowing, conditions and amazing creatures in his explorations of what we now know as maritime Alaska. The author weaves his own journey to one of Steller's study sites into an historic account of these voyages of discovery. Simply a great read. Looking forward to more stories of Alaska and the people of the maritime Pacific Northwest by this author.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on May 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
History, true adventure, travel and science blend in the vivid survey STELLER'S ISLAND: ADVENTURES OF A PIONEER NATURALIST IN ALASKA. Georg Steller predated Lewis and Clark and John Muir and made some amazing discoveries - so it's surprising to note this provides some of rare insights on the man and his legacy - including the only scientific account of the Steller's sea cow before it became extinct. A wide audience will find this absorbing, from any library specializing in Alaskan history to general-interest holdings where patrons seek true-life adventure or tales of scientific discovery.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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