Posted by: Green Knight | June 9, 2010

Blast from the Past

i just read Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, a classic “year-in-nature” type of account that served as Rachel Carson’s only literary influence, refers back to Thoreau, and was published in 1928. it is as the works of Leopold, Darwin, or Mowat.  Beston spent a year in his cottage on Cape Cod, so it is a seasonally-oriented work, but also with chapters that deal with the various five senses, and very well written. one long paragraph particularly caught my attention, given current events, and i shall quote it here:

“A new danger, moreover, now threatens the birds at sea.  An irreducible residue of crude oil, called by refiners “slop,” remains in stills after oil distillation, and this is pumped into southbound tankers and emptied far offshore.  This wretched pollution floats over large areas, and the birds alight in it and get it on their feathers.  They inevitably die.  Just how they perish is still something of a question.  Some die of cold, for the gluey oil so mats and swabs the thick arctic feathering that creases open through it to the skin above the vitals; others die of hunger as well.  Captain George Nickerson of Nauset tells me that he saw an oil-covered eider trying to dive for food off Monomoy, and that the bird was unable to plunge.  I am glad to be able to write that the situation is better than it was.  Five years ago, the shores of Monomoy peninsula were strewn with hundreds, even thousands, of dead sea fowl, for the tankers pumped out slop as they were passing the shoals — into the very waters, indeed, on which the birds have lived since time began!  To-day oil is more the chance fate of the unfortunate individual.  But let us hope that all such pollution will presently end.”

remember, that was written in 1928, folks, 82 years ago. and we’re still hoping. paradigm shift, anyone?


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