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Steller's Island: Adventures of a Pioneer Naturalist in Alaska Paperback – October 1, 2006
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"Kayak Island, where Steller first came ashore in North America [is] no longer a blank spot on the map, as it was in Steller's time, but Littlepage helps the reader understand the excitement the young explorer must have felt 250 years ago, fresh-eyed and eager to be amazed" (Natural History Magazine)
"If you read this book with the idea of finding a biography of Steller you will be disappointed. If you peruse it with the thought of learning more about the natural history of Alaska as noted in 1741 you will enjoy it. Your choice." (Alaska History)
"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." (The Midwest Book Review)
"A book that makes history touchable… we enjoy Steller without having to pay the adventurer's price: bitter northern winters, endless slogging drudgery, deprivations, and dangers galore… This fascinating little book reads like the vacation Littlepage took on his 20-mile exploration of Kayak Island. Fast and enjoyable." (EarthJustice Magazine)
"Littlepage has written a first-rate account of Steller and the Bering Expedition's year in the Pacific. He brings the science and personalities to life, as well as providing modern insights on both. He also shows how much has been lost since the great naturalist's time…Modern scientists are fortunate to have Steller's descriptions, and modern readers are fortunate to have Littlepage's book." (David Williams Seattle Times)
"This gripping story of Steller's explorations puts the reader in the era of sailing ships and uncharted wilderness, and reveals the natural beauty of Alaska the way Steller saw it more than two centuries ago" (Alaska Airlines)
Hikers, historians, and conservationists will appreciate Littlepage's well-researched, thought-provoking narrative. (Wilderness Medicine magazine)
"If you peruse [the book] with the thought of learning more about the earliest natural history of Alaska as noted in 1741, you will enjoy it." (Daily Sentinel)
"Littlepage provides a gripping and vivid account of the struggles the surviving crewmen endured" (Fairbanks Daily News)
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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There was so little information about who Steller was outside of this one voyage. Even info about who Bering was and what he had done previously.
The book was short, but even much of that was not about Steller or the island. The end was about the history of fur bearing mammals in the North Pacific which wasn't the advertised topic.
The most interesting part was about Bering's Island, not Kayak Island.
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. The author not only notes the breadth of Steller's scientific discoveries, but traces the fates of the animals he wrote about in his best known work 'Beasts of the Sea.' Many were nearly hunted to extinction while environmental changes threaten others. The Steller Sea Cow is now extinct and all that remains is Seller's description. In all, this makes for a wonderful book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading some traditional science history with profound implications for today's world.