INTO THE PORCUPINE CAVE AND OTHER ODYSSEYS by William W. Warner

INTO THE PORCUPINE CAVE AND OTHER ODYSSEYS

Adventures of an Occasional Naturalist
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Elegant, low-profile, life-shaping events in the outdoors, from naturalist Warner. Collected here in ten essays are just the type of experiences that in their undramatic way quietly become the stuff of memory. For Warner, these indelible episodes took place in nature, and the why of this is explained in a moving introductory piece on his first forays into the wild under the tutelage of his irascible step-grandfather, who served in lieu of a father. The incidents cum adventures include digging for fossils in central Utah with a friend and a professor from Princeton in 1941 (said friend then shipping out after Pearl Harbor and dying in the Pacific), and hearing the thunderous slap of orcas” flukes reverberate through the Patagonian hills (“I wanted to explore la tiera mas austral del mundo . . . I would do this entirely on my own, using only public transportation wherever such existed”) again in the early 1940s. During the same war that killed his friend, he first viewed a coral reef community through a pair of Hawaiian spear-fishing goggles made of wood and glass and an inner tube, and began asking all the right questions: Why all the color? Why all the variety? Why does this phenomenon touch me so? Some of the locales are impossibly remote or just plain difficult to get to—Ellesmere Island, the Virginia barrier islands—while other places ensnare him in their force field, such as the Dry Tortugas, where amid the noddies and frigates and boobies of every persuasion a merlin dives and plucks a warbler from the air within inches of his ear. Such breadth of subject matter is no problem for Warner, who has a natural storyteller’s talent for enthralling readers on any topic he chooses. Some 20 years ago, Warner won a deserved Pulitzer for his transcendent book Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay. These essays have an equal understated beauty and display the same seasoned understanding of the natural world.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7922-7455-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: National Geographic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999