Cover image for Heartbeats in the muck : the history, sea life, and environment of New York Harbor
Heartbeats in the muck : the history, sea life, and environment of New York Harbor
Waldman, John R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Lyons Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
178 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QH105.N7 W35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Ichthyologist Waldman traces the fate of the harbour from the 17th century, when it teemed with fish, porpoises, and whales through the rich oyster bed in the early 19th century to today's pollution and annual April warming that energizes bacteria to float the year's murders and suicides to the water's surface. He includes many old and new photographs.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

You might or might not want to fish in the East River now. In 1850, though, it was a hot spot for anglers: an able dockworker once caught seven sharks in a day. "New York Harbor's vast network of moving or placid, fresh, brackish, and salt water" still holds a startling variety of marine life whose past, present and future Waldman surveys in this exemplary and compact work of popular ecology. Sometimes describing his own trips through creeks and up inlets, in the manner of John McPhee, Waldman (who edited Strippers: An Angler's Anthology) explains what sorts of marine life live in and near the Hudson, the East River and the Meadowlands, how engineering and shipping have affected them and how decreased pollution around New York has allowed various species to begin to return. Recent cleanups have made the waters around the city a magnet for wading birds, while "sea horses are common around Pier 26." Even dolphins, manatees and sea turtles have been spotted straying through area waters. Sometimes pollution has had ironic benefits. Industrial runoff in the Hudson actually helped increase its striped bass population: few people wanted to catch the PCB-laden fish, so more of them lived to breed. And the contaminants at the mouth of the Hudson helped preserve the wood of its piers, which are now under attack again from tiny animals called marine borers. Waldman also covers matters of infrastructure, concluding with looks at present and future construction around the water's edge, with an optimistic overview. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The 1500 square miles of New York Harbor comprise diverse flora and fauna, complicated tides, and wide temperature fluctuations. The harbor has been subjected to centuries of human activity resulting in water pollution and degradation of its natural environment: almost every part of the Harbor has been "drained, dredged, blasted, rerouted, tunneled or bridged." The author (Stripers: An Angler's Anthology), a biologist affiliated with the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research, outlines the history of the area, discussing such features as the New Jersey Meadowlands, the Gowanus Canal, and the various creeks and rivers flowing into the East River will be of great interest to those familiar with the region. Although A Natural History of New York City by John Kieran (1959) and The Hudson River (1979) provide more systematic treatment, Waldman's lively anecdotal text is well documented by citations to old maps and documents and historic photographs. With a four-page annotated bibliography; suitable for public libraries.ÄJudith Barnett, Pell Marie Sciences Lib., Univ. of Rhode Island, Kingston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 13
1 The Essential Harborp. 19
2 Vita Marinaep. 31
3 The Medium: Sewers, Sludge, and Other Forms of Water Torturep. 81
4 The Vessel: Bank and Bottom, Bulldozers and Blastsp. 115
5 How Is the Harbor Doing?p. 157
Bibliographyp. 167
Indexp. 171

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