Cover image for The living Great Lakes : searching for the heart of the inland seas
The living Great Lakes : searching for the heart of the inland seas
Dennis, Jerry.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 296 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
General Note:
Maps on lining papers.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F551 .D39 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



If fresh water is to be treasured, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. One of them, Superior, is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound eight states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Their surface area of 95,000 square miles is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have never visited them - who have never seen a squall roar across Superior or the horizon stretch unbroken across Michigan or Huron - have no idea how big they are. They are so vast that they dominate much of the geography, climate, and history of North America. In one way or another, they affect the lives of tens of millions of people. The Living Great Lakes is the most complete book ever written about the history, nature, and science of these remarkable lakes at the heart of North America. From the geological forces that formed them to the industrial atrocities that nearly destroyed them, to the greatest environmental success stories of our time, the lakes are portrayed in all their complexity. The book, however, is much more than just history. It is also the story of the lakes as told by biologists, fishermen, sailors, and others whom the author grew to know while traveling with them on boats and hiking with them on beaches and islands.The book is also the story of a personal journey. It is the narrative of a six-week voyage through the lakes and beyond as a crewmember on a tallmasted schooner, and a memoir of a lifetime spent on and near the lakes. Through storms and fog, on remote shores and city waterfronts, the author explores the five Great Lakes in all seasons and moods and discovers that they and their connecting waters - including the Erie Canal, the Hudson River, and the East Coast from New York to Maine - offera surprising and bountiful view of America. The result is a meditation on nature and our place in the world, a discussion and cautionary tale about the future of water resources, and a celebration of a place that is both fragile and robust, diverse, rich in history and wildlife, often misunderstood, and worthy of our attention.

Author Notes

Jerry Dennis writes about nature and the outdoors for such publications as Sports Afield, Gray's Sporting Journal, and The New York Times . His previous books have been widely praised and have been translated into five languages. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dennis surveys the Inland Seas through the viewpoint of his lake-faring rambles in three different vessels: schooner, racing yacht, and voyageur canoe. As he passes the numerous spectacular sights the Great Lakes afford sailors, Dennis recalls their associated history in a vibrant blend of personal observation and geological, historical, and environmental anecdote. The main focus here is a schooner trip in 2000 from Grand Traverse Bay to Maine (via the Erie Canal). As the Malabar negotiates the treacherous Straits of Mackinac, Dennis not only covers the French missions, British forts, and innumerable shipwrecks in this storied area but also recollects his experience in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac yacht race. Working in a separate, French fur-trapper style canoeing adventure on Lake Superior, Dennis touches on all five lakes in this compendium, endowing his chronicle with a breadth that makes it a fine introduction to the lakes' ecology. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his newest book, Dennis (From a Wooden Canoe) offers an engrossing description of being a crew member on the schooner Malabar on a six-week trip through the waters of Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Capt. Hajo Knuttel and other crew members such as Tim, the ship's creative cook, spring to life in this modern adventure tale. Dennis weaves anecdotes from his childhood, such as a family-fishing trip on Lake Michigan, together with informed commentary on the natural history of the lakes and the people who live there as well as evocative descriptions of the enchanting view of the forests along Lake Superior from the schooner. His narrative is a continual reminder of the dangers inherent in navigating the waters of these magnificent lakes as he details their current condition; he explains that in the 1970s, Lake Erie's waters were saved from an ecological disaster by a public outcry, yet other waters are still in danger from commercial dumping. But all does not go smoothly for the Malabar; Dennis's narrative takes on an air of adventure when, toward the end of the trip, the Malabar and its crew encounter a terrifying storm. Photos not seen by PW. Regional author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dennis (It's Raining Frogs and Fishes) takes a comprehensive look at the Great Lakes, delving into the cultural and natural history of this vast inland body of fresh water. In part a journal of his six-week voyage through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean on a 100' schooner, it is also the story of the geological forces that scoured the lake basins, the early Jesuit and French explorers, and Dennis's own history of growing up on Lake Michigan. The author moves seamlessly between the events of the journey-e.g., struggling to keep from capsizing during a sudden squall on Lake Erie-to events of the past, such as his participation in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race. We follow the fishing industry through its ups and downs, hear disastrous tales of shipwrecks, and are alerted to environmental hazards resulting from years of unrestricted dumping of wastes. Those who enjoyed William Least Heat-Moon's River-Horse will want to read this book. Essential for regional collections and a fine addition to any public library.-Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ. Lib., Sault Ste. Marie, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.