Articles

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The Fertile Shore
Smithsonian Magazine / January/February 2020

 

It’s one of the greatest mysteries of our time. But archaeologists and even geneticists are closer than ever to understanding when humans made the first bold journey to the Americas

Warnings from Antarctica

The New York Times / July 12, 2017

 

An iceberg the size of Delaware has broken off, another sign of the rapid change underway on the world’s iciest continent.

On Thoreau’s 200th Birthday, a New Biography Pictures Him as a Man of Principle

The New York Times / July 12, 2017

 

Asked once why he was so eternally curious, Thoreau said, “What else is there in life?” In “Henry David Thoreau: A Life,” Laura Dassow Walls explores his vision.

A Half-Century of Walking Cape Cod’s Beaches

The New York Times / June 2, 2017

 

In “The Outer Beach,” the nature writer Robert Finch collects more than 50 years worth of observations and ruminations on Cape Cod’s eastern coast.

Tracing Alaska's Russian Heritage

Smithsonian Journeys Quarterly | July 7, 2016

 

From onion domes to tsarist-era Russian dialects, evidence of the Russian colonialism remains.

Ice Retreat

The New Yorker | December 21 & 28, 2009

 

Litchfield Island is an outcropping of granite and diorite rising out of the Southern Ocean off the coast of the northwestern Antarctic Peninsula, which juts toward the tip of South America. With dark, snow-streaked ridges flowing into broad, pebbled beaches, Litchfield is picturesque, but amid the imposing Antarctic landscape the island — not quite three-quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide — hardly merits a second glance. To the north, on Anvers Island, the dome of the Marr Ice Piedmont — a glacier roughly forty miles long and twenty miles across at its widest point — dominates the horizon. 

Mysteries of Killer Whales Uncovered in the Antarctic

Yale Environment 360 | February 2, 2012

 

On the afternoon of January 10, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, whale researchers Robert L. Pitman and John W. Durban stood on the bridge of a cruise ship, peering through binoculars for signs of killer whales. The Weddell Sea, where English explorer Ernest Shackleton and his men were locked in the sea ice nearly a century ago, was calm and studded with icebergs. It was raining, an increasingly common occurrence in summer in this rapidly warming part of Antarctica.

Water Pressure
National Geographic | September 2002

 

Rajendra Singh came to the village, bringing with him the promise of water.

If ever a place needed moisture, this hamlet in the desiccated Indian state of Rajasthan was it. Always a dry spot, Rajasthan had suffered several years of drought, leaving remote villages like Goratalai with barely enough water to quench the thirst of their inhabitants. Farm plots had shriveled, and men had fled to the cities seeking work, leaving those behind to subsist on roti, corn, and chili paste. Desperate villagers appealed to a local aristocratic family, who in turn contacted Singh, a man renowned across western India for his ability to use traditional methods of capturing monsoon rains to supply water year-round.

Russia Rising
National Geographic | November 2001

 

From the outside, the Institute of Mathematics in Akademgorodok looks much as it did in its Soviet heyday, a long, four-story, beige stone monolith that epitomized the intellectual might of the Communist regime. After the founding of Akademgorodok, or Academic City, in Siberia in 1958, this institute and several dozen others hummed with the research activity that undergirded the military-industrial complex and helped make the U.S.S.R. a superpower. In the 1990s, following the demise of the Soviet Union, the institute and Akademgorodok became symbols of a different kind — of the decay of Russian science and the decline of a great state.

Boreal Forest
National Geographic | June 2002

 

Several small huskies trotted jauntily down a dirt road in the western Siberian taiga, heralding the presence of the Moldanov clan. The dogs were followed by two men, one carrying a shotgun, then three women wearing flower-print head scarves and brightly colored dresses hemmed with embroidered strips of cloth. All were bent under the weight of sacks and birch backpacks filled with gleanings from Russia's boreal, or northern, forest — fish, berries, and reindeer meat.

Iran: Testing the Waters of Reform
National Geographic | July 1999

 

On a sparkling afternoon in April, three young couples climbed the steep hiking trail that follows the Darakeh River in northern Tehran. The river rushes out of the Elburz Mountains, whose snow-covered peaks form a majestic backdrop to the nondescript sprawl of the capital. At nearly 5,000 feet, the area along the Darakeh is one of the few refuges from the dirty air and clamor of Tehran, and on this Friday, an Islamic day of rest, the couples were chatting easily as they strolled under willows and plane trees loaded with brilliant green buds.

Atlantic Salmon

National Geographic | July 2003

 

Standing on a grassy bank of the River Deveron, Lord Marnoch, an eminent Scottish judge, is attached — via a 12-foot fly rod, a bit of line, and a hook — to an Atlantic salmon. The creature struggling to dislodge Lord Marnoch's fly from its jaw was spawned in the Deveron, resided several years in the river, and has spent the past year fattening up in the North Atlantic, probably near the Faroe Islands or Iceland, before completing its long migration home to reproduce. It is a strong, wild, young salmon of about five pounds (two kilograms), known as a grilse, and it was doing fine until it entered the Deveron and succumbed to the allure of Lord Marnoch's delicate, orange fly.

Hot Spot

Outside | March 2003

 

"Kafter! Kaftar! Kaftar?" Kaftar, I'm sorry to report, is nowhere in sight. Neither are his horses, which are supposed to carry us out of this forsaken patch of semi-desert in the beautiful but wobbly little nation of Georgia, a former Soviet republic on the southern border of Russia. As men around him yell for Kaftar, Paata Shanshiashvili, the father of his country's fledgling national parks system, is silent. Better than most, he knows that nothing comes easy in his native land.

The Accused:The War of Jonas Stelmokas

The Philadelphia Inquirer | March 12, 1995

 

Jonas Stelmokas opens the door of his spacious Lansdowne home, unfailingly courteous as he ushers in a visitor who has come to inquire about the events of a lifetime ago. The 78-year-old immigrant, a distinguished-looking figure in a dark turtleneck, walks slowly into his dimly lit living room. He takes a seat amid the pictures, books, and furnishings that symbolize the success he has enjoyed in America.

With his blue eyes, slicked-back white hair, and closely trimmed gray mustache, Stelmokas looks like an aging matinee idol. His manners are courtly. But in a matter of minutes his decorous demeanor begins to crack as he holds forth on "Jewish terror" and Jewish conspiracies.

Scions of Literary Giants Share Passion for Fishing
The Philadelphia Inquirer | November 27, 1994

 

Hemingway was upstream. Tolstoy was downstream. And neither was catching a damn thing.

The Grande Ronde River in southeastern Washington had never seen such a pair. Jack Hemingway — eldest son of legendary novelist Ernest Hemingway and admitted trout bum — was working his two-handed Spey rod in a graceful arc, casting for prized steelhead trout. Count Alexander Tolstoy — great-grandson of legendary Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and admitted trout bum — was fly-fishing for steelhead, too, standing knee-deep in the frigid water, the brown canyons of Washington's high desert at his back.

Will Global Coal Boom Go Bust As Climate Concerns Increase?
Yale Environment 360 | April 15, 2013

 

Today, the global economy annually consumes at least 80 times more coal than was burned in 1950 at the height of the Industrial Revolution. The International Energy Agency said that global coal use - now close to 8 billion tons a year - could increase by 65 percent by 2035 if current energy trends continue. A recent independent analysis reported that 1,200 new coal-fired power plants are being proposed worldwide, three-quarters of them in India and China. The planet still has so much coal underground that if industrial economies mine and burn this fossil fuel at current rates, known reserves would last for more than a century. 

Fish and Chips
Forbes | November 11, 2002

 

Gordon Moore is deep in the wilderness on Russia’s Pacific coast, casting for gargantuan rainbow trout in the shadow of a 9,700-foot volcano. The 73-year-old billionaire is here for the fishing, but he has a loftier purpose in mind: to use his Intel fortune to help preserve some of the world’s remaining wild places, including the lovely Zhupanova River. At the moment, however, an emissary from the wild world–a 350-pound brown bear–is padding toward Moore. It is 150 yards upstream and closing fast.

There Goes the Neighborhood
Audubon Magazine | March-April 2000

 

Nestled in the hills of north Georgia is the 20-acre farm of Herb and Kathy Epperson, a swath of pasture and forest that has been in his family for 165 years. Downtown Atlanta is just 40 miles to the south, but when you visit the Epperson spread it feels a world away. A cedar home sits in a grove of tall pines, and out back, behind a meadow, are two 400-foot-long poultry houses in which the family raises about 250,000 chickens a year. Woods and fields and chicken coops surround the property.