NATURAL LIVES, MODERN TIMES by Bruce Stutz

NATURAL LIVES, MODERN TIMES

People and Places of the Delaware River

KIRKUS REVIEW

 From an editor at Audubon magazine, a lively natural and social history and tour of the banks of the Delaware. The Delaware River was first settled by whites in the 17th century, Stutz tells us, and--as the common border of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey--soon became the East's maritime, agricultural, and industrial heartland. From this beginning, Stutz moves to the annual mating of two million horseshoe crabs, who, throwing themselves onto the beaches of Delaware Bay, are eaten by half of the Western Hemisphere's population of turnstone birds making an annual stop from South America on their way to the Arctic. In finely turned chapters, Stutz goes on to relate the history of the local beaver trade (dating from Charles I's 1638 mandate that only beaver could be used for hats); runs a line of ``fykes'' (traps for snapping turtles), telling of the turtles' lives while the subsistence fishermen who are boating tell him of theirs; spends nights with trappers harvesting eels in a river weir, the eels migrating to the Sargasso Sea to breed (along with all other migratory eels in the world); and relates the family histories of the 19th-century industrialists whose shipyards, refineries, and chemical factories generated pollution that halved the fishery by 1900. Stutz lets the many people whose lives are intertwined with the river speak for themselves and of what has vanished, giving his story an engaging presence. He also covers bad news: the Delaware's role as the major shipping route of slaves for auction in Philadelphia; the annihilation by the commercial caviar industry of great schools of ten-foot sturgeon; and the depredations of the home-building rush in the Poconos. Piquant, and uncommonly eloquent. (Six maps--not seen.)

Pub Date: May 5th, 1992
ISBN: 0-517-58225-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1992