What a brilliant, deeply researched, beautifully written book this is I ve lived on or near the Gulf of Mexico almost all my life, and covered environmental issues in Florida for 20 years, and still this book taught me a lot that I did not know My hat s off to University of Florida professor Jack E Davis for this stunning achievement, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the Gulf or its coastline.Davis starts off the book in an unusual way, showing us how painter Winslow Homer, in visits to Homossassa Springs in Florida, came to regard the vast body of water on which he frequently fished Then he rewinds back to the ancient people who lived along the coast in harmony with nature, takes us through the Spanish and English and French invaders and colonists, then tackles the efforts to map the coastline Over the decades and generations he introduces us to Louisiana Cajuns, Texas roughnecks, and Florida oystermen and shady developers, and we come to see the Gulf from their particular perspective in each era In addition to Homer, such celebrities as novelist Randy Wayne White, hotel and railroad magnate Henry Plant, Tabasco progenitor Edward McIlhenny, inventor Thomas Edison and the incomparable Ernest Hemingway show up I was particularly happy to see him include the story of Dewey Destin, the shipwrecked New England fisherman who founded the Florida town that became known as The World s Luckiest Fishing Village By charting the change from when the Gulf was seen as a source of a natural bounty full of tarpon to catch and other blessings, to our modern day habit of regarding it as an industrial area full of oil rigs and commercial fish stocks, he shows how humans have abused the massive sea He takes pains, too, to show how we have frequently underestimated its ability to strike back through hurricanes.My one quibble with the book is that I thought the BP oil spill of 2010 deserved space Davis makes the completely accurate point that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is just one of many indignities visited upon the Gulf, and perhaps not the worst one overall But I think that he missed a good chance here to point out as many oceanographers have told me since Deepwater Horizon that until that disaster occurred, there was little scientific study of what was IN the Gulf that could be lost because of such a disaster and thus no baseline for knowing what Deepwater Horizon inflicted upon this American Sea The money BP has spent trying to make up for what it did wrong has actually aided a massive advance in our knowledge of what lives in the Gulf and where and how studies that should have taken place before the first drilling occurred, but of course did not.That said, I must add one thing This is not a quick read Davis book is rich in vivid prose and compelling stories, and that means a smart reader will take it slow, and savor every page like a sunset over rippling waters. This Pulitzer Prize winning book for History, by Jack Davis, by an environmental historian, gave a riveting history and exploration of the Gulf of Mexico Davis does an impressive job of bringing the Gulf to life in this incredible work He documents the impact of the Gulf from the earliest settlers and explorers to the development of the Gulf to modern days He uses geological, ecological, social, environmental, colonial, economical and biological frameworks to analyze the Gulf of Mexico.The Gulf of Mexico was a habitat of plentiful sea life and birds but the oil industry, over fishing and pollution have changed that But as the author states we cannot destroy the Gulf it will persistWe cannot destroy or control the sea, although we can diminish its gifts, and when we do, we turn away from our providence and diminish ourselves The author has written a masterful book in describing all aspects of the Gulf and made it incredible must reading It is well deserving of the Pulitzer Prize Award of 2018. This is an immersive, readable account of the history of the Gulf of Mexico Jack E Davis does an incredible job bringing the Gulf to life in this ambitious undertaking of a book The reader is taken on a journey from the early days of the Pleistocene era to the present Davis uses geological, ecological, social, environmental, colonial, economical and biological frameworks to provide a detailed analysis of what the Gulf of Mexico means to the United States.I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys epic, sweeping non fiction narratives with environmental undertones. The Gulf The Making of an American Sea by Jack E Davis, an environmental historian, was a sweeping history and riveting exploration of the Gulf of Mexico from Galveston, Texas to Key West, Florida, documenting its impact over time from the earliest Aborigine settlers to the Spanish explorers and conquistadores to modern day Davis keeps one interested by interspersing not only history and science but literature and art through the ages, as well as featuring some very interesting people and the beautiful wildlife and fauna It is easy to see why Davis was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for history in 2018 Florida is where we spend quite a few months each year so I was particularly interested in the environmental concerns that have been raised It should be noted that in all of the crazed development along the entire Gulf coast Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Florida have been pioneers in attempting to preserve the coast and how many other communities are beginning to follow their example This was a beautifully written book with lessons for all of usThe Gulf is the country s hurricane alley, yet Americans have been aggressively committed to building in the middle of it Many of the Gulf s beaches, where migrating hordes have amassed, are not altogether natural, but the product of a continuing taxpayer funded struggle against the sea Islands and pirates, mystery and romance, truth and fable the lore of one is the lore of the other Gulf states are struck by hurricanes fifteen percent often than all other US states combined, and coastal dwellers in the eastern and northern Gulf, from Key West to Galveston, have to batten down their homes and flee danger often than any other Americans A wonderful study of America s Sea from its very creation all the way up to the Deepwater Horizon spill Unsurprisingly, Davis main objective is to illustrate our damning behavior towards our gift giving Gulf and the need to let nature do its thing and stay out of the way And he succeeds, but the most enjoyable parts of this book are some of the individual characters Davis introduces and their bold and strange exploits This is not nearly as dry of a read as you might expect Well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize award. It means managing our own behavior, not nature s We cannot destroy or control the sea, although we can diminish its gifts, and when we do, we turn away from our providence and diminish ourselves Great book Reminds one that the environment matters and we can make a difference for good or evil. The Gulf of Mexico used to be a bounteous habitat of sea life and birds, but the oil industry, pollution, and overfishing have changed that, according to the author Davis is an engaging writer, but the last half of the book is a drag to get through Also, this is a book about the northern Gulf he doesn t explore the southern Mexican coast. When Painter Winslow Homer First Sailed Into The Gulf Of Mexico, He Was Struck By Its Special Kind Of Providence Indeed, The Gulf Presented Itself As America S Sea Bound By Geography, Culture, And Tradition To The National Experience And Yet, There Has Never Been A Comprehensive History Of The Gulf Until Now And So, In This Rich And Original Work That Explores The Gulf Through Our Human Connection With The Sea, Environmental Historian Jack E Davis Finally Places This Exceptional Region Into The American Mythos In A Sweeping History That Extends From The Pleistocene Age To The Twenty First CenturySignificant Beyond Tragic Oil Spills And Hurricanes, The Gulf Has Historically Been One Of The World S Most Bounteous Marine Environments, Supporting Human Life For Millennia Davis Starts From The Premise That Nature Lies At The Center Of Human Existence, And Takes Readers On A Compelling And, At Times, Wrenching Journey From The Florida Keys To The Texas Rio Grande, Along Marshy Shorelines And Majestic Estuarine Bays, Profoundly Beautiful And Life Giving, Though Fated To Exploitation By Esurient Oil Men And Real Estate DevelopersRich In Vivid, Previously Untold Stories, The Gulf Tells The Larger Narrative Of The American Sea From The Sportfish That Brought The Earliest Tourists To Gulf Shores To Hollywood S Engagement With The First Offshore Oil Wells As It Inspired And Empowered, Sometimes To Its Own Detriment, The Ethnically Diverse Groups Of A Growing Nation Davis Pageant Of Historical Characters Is Vast, Including The Presidents Who Directed Western Expansion Toward Its Shores, The New England Fishers Who Introduced Their Own Distinct Skills To The Region, And The Industries And Big Agriculture That Sent Their Contamination Downstream Into The Estuarine Wonderland Nor Does Davis Neglect The Colorfully Idiosyncratic Individuals The Tabasco King Who Devoted His Life To Wildlife Conservation, The Texas Shrimper Who Gave Hers To Clean Water And Public Health, As Well As The New York Architect Who Hooked The Big One That Set The Sportfishing World On FireUltimately, Davis Reminds Us That Amidst The Ruin, Beauty Awaits Its Return, As The Gulf Is, And Has Always Been, An Ongoing Story Sensitive To The Imminent Effects Of Climate Change, And To The Difficult Task Of Rectifying Grievous Assaults Of Recent Centuries, The Gulf Suggests How A Penetrating Examination Of A Single Region S History Can Inform The Country S Path Ahead I managed to procure an advanced copy of this breathtaking book and it is brilliant and important work highly academic yet completely accessible and filled with the kinds of insightful vignettes that Davis was a keen eye for This body of water defines the lives of millions of people, and here is a work that manages to capture the complexity and contrasts of an American tragedy in the making It reads like a novel a very fine novel Davis is one of the finest writers of prose in the English language, an author who labors over each word with the mastery of a surgeon Considering how much Davis fits in, it s a remarkable achievement of storytelling and analysis. Gulf the Making of an American Sea 2017 is Jack E Davis s history of the Gulf of Mexico, a body of water overlooked in most histories of America s growth and of growth s consequences Davis, a professor of environmental history at the University of Florida, has written a masterpiece For those of us who live in the southwest Florida, the Gulf is an all important body of water, and Davis s history is both relevant and enlightening The book is filled with information new to many of us, and it is written in an openly breezy style that pulls us into the political, commercial, and social history of the Gulf of Mexico Gulf HistoryContrary to popular thought, the Gulf of Mexico was not formed by the arrival of an asteroid, though one did arrive off Yucat n long after the Gulf was formed rather, it was created by the breakup of the original supercontinent called Pangaea, itself surrounded by a single ocean called Panthalassa During this process the Yucat n Peninsula broke off from Florida and drifted southwestward, allowing water to rush into the new basin and flood the land as far north as Illinois Since than the water level has fallen to create the much smaller Gulf of Mexico Davis begins his history in southwest Florida between Charlotte Harbor north of Fort Myers and the southern tip of Florida though it effectively ends at Everglades City in the Ten Thousand Islands He breaks into that history with an 1895 archeological find on Marco Island by William D Collier, owner of the island who settled there in 1870 and no relationship to Barron Collier who developed a huge swath now called Collier County Marco Island is about 40 miles south of Charlotte Harbor and ten miles north of Everglades City, both large estuarial areas And it is the estuaries that defined early Florida and determined its future.In the estuaries fresh water from inland rivers meets salt water from the Gulf to create a perfect marine environment for fish and birds fish can find optimal salinity, currents feed the fish, and the fish feed the birds The first known human beneficiaries of the estuary s largess were the Calusa Indians, who emerged in 500BC to create the Caloosahatchee Culture and disappeared by 1750 They created ancient shell mounds from the detritus of the abundant oysters and fish that fed them These mounds were sufficiently high to create small islands on which the Calusa could live The Calusas were discovered in William Collier s find at Marco Island Frank Hamilton Cushing, a Smithsonian Institution archaeologist, was brought to Marco Island to investigate Collier s discovery He concluded that it was the remnants of an ancient Indian village This changed the image of the southwest Florida coast no longer was it simply the place of a few hundred mean and hungry post Civil War settlers now it had a long history of occupation and an ancient culture.When the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century they described the Calusa as giants the Calusa diet heavy on fish, with few vegetables and little meat made them several inches taller than the Spaniards The Calusa lived in inland vallages often reached by canals they dug Canals were also dug to create shorter routes for canoe travel the longest is a 2 mile canal on Pine Island in Charlotte Harbor At their peak they formed a population of about 20,000 scattered throughout the region from Punta Gorda at the north end of Charlotte Harbor to Everglades City.The first European known in the area was Ponce de Leon, who entered Charlotte Harbor only to be driven away by the Calusa In 1521 de Leon tried again but was hit by a poisoned dart and died in Cuba Where force could not prevail, perhaps religion could the first Spanish missionary arrived circa 1560 He could drum up no interest in the new ideas he brought a new god with a strange message of resurrection, cloth clothing, renunciation of the pagan rituals that had served the Calusa well for centuries The Calusa population disappeared by the 1750 s Their demise, mirrored in the decline of Indian populations all along the Gulf Coast, was the consequence of European disease and European enslavement to be fair, the Indians enslaved Europeans, but Europeans were just better at it By the time of the American Revolution the Gulf Coast was under the influence of three powers the British, the French, and the Spanish the French and Spanish in the west the Spanish and British in the east In its early days Florida was split into two parts prior to 1763, western Florida the Panhandle and modern Louisiana were under Spanish and French control After the 1763 British victory in the French and Indian War the area was ceded to the British, along with eastern peninsular Florida The British split it into two territories West Florida the Panhandle and Louisiana and East Florida the Peninsula So it remained until 1781 when Spain invaded West Florida and Britain bogged down in the American Revolution ceded both Floridas back to Spain Border disputes between Spanish West Florida and America led to the formation of the Republic of West Florida in 1810 it was quickly annexed to America In 1819 America purchased the remainder of West Florida and all of East Florida, and in 1822 the two Floridas were merged as the Florida Territory of the United States Interestingly, Davis argues that at the time of the American Revolution there were really 15 colonies even there were no Founding Fathers from the two Floridas Jefferson s 1803 Louisiana Purchase so helpful in financing the Napoleonic Wars, the main thorn in Britain s side was prompted less by his interest in the American west than by his belief that the new U S should control both the Mississippi River, an important trade and strategic path into the U.S., and New Orleans, the most important port in the south This meant controlling the Gulf passage to the Mississippi and New Orleans Jefferson also advocated bringing Cuba under the American umbrella, a view shared by Polk who, in 1854, offered Spain 100 million for Cuba Polk was soundly rejected, at which American anger led to a view that having been rejected, the U.S was now free to wrest control of Cuba from the Spanish That, of course, had to wait until the Spanish American War in 1898 Gulf Commerce Fish, Birds, Hospitality, Real Estate, and OilThe Gulf s early commercial history is spelled FISH In the 1880s two fish were discovered that changed the Gulf The first was the red snapper, a fish with a delightful taste that found fans in the far north Called the snapper because it snapped greedily at bait, the Red was soon followed by other snappers Mangrove, Lane, Yellow, Hog, and so on Mullet a fish eaten by the poor were so abundant that they jumped into boats Oysters, a bottom feeder that cleansed the shallows, were abundant all along the coast William Collins s oyster dredge at Marco Island was a significant source of oysters until it closed in 1910 Shrimp became a popular commercial catch, first the brown shrimp and then the pink Much of the early fishing catch was from the shallow estuaries, easily reached by rowboat or light sailboat The arrival of the powerboat increased the fishing range, and with it the type of fish sought swordfish, marlin and other deep sea fish began to arrive on platters And as the quantity and variety of aquatic life claimed from the Gulf exploded, the technology improved boat size and range increased, the types of nets used changed, and so on The arrival of refrigeration and the flash freezing method kept caught fish fresher for longer and increased the demand for Gulf fish The second fish the tarpon or Silver King brought sport fishing and tourists to the Gulf An international fish found in abundance around Pine Island Sound, tarpons feed in shallow waters and have no practical use other than to become fertilizer fine bones woven throughout its meat make it edible only for the very poor But the tarpon is a glorious fighting fish known for its tail walks on the water and for its fierce resistance to line and rod The first known tarpon catch was in 1885, a 93 pounder near Tampa and with it began a flood of tarpon seekers for many years there was an annual tarpon tournament at Boca Grande Pass on northern Charlotte Harbor it was recently terminated when it became so congested that it produced fights than fish At the apex of the tarpon fishing hierarchy is the fly fishing devotee, a remarkable skill given that a 150 pound tarpon is common and the record is 280 pounds Davis s discussion of the tarpon relies on the famous fishing guide and crime thriller author Randy Wayne White, whom Davis seems to think is dead Mr White, a Pine Island resident might disagree The delights of Florida warmth, beaches, a relaxed life style, and the Silver King became popular when the railroads to the west coast were constructed and northerners flooded Paradise railroads were much later in serving the west coast of Florida and the Panhandle area To serve them, a hotel industry began with emphasis on the Silver King Once again, Charlotte Harbor was the seminal location Punta Gorda on the mainland, Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, Pine Island, and Fort Myers were particular sites A small but powerful site was Useppa Island near Boca Grande where John Roache, a Chicago streetcar company owner, built the Tarpon Inn and welcomed the glitterati as his guests In 1911 Barron Collier, who instituted the idea of advertising on Roache s streetcars, bought Useppa Island much later it would be used to train for the ill fated Bay of Bigs invasion in 1961 In the 1920s Collier would move his interests southward to the Ten Thousand Islands, building Everglades City into his company town At his Everglades City Rod Gun Club he would fete Presidents and industrial tycoons like Firestone and Edison.Tarpon, oysters, snapper, grouper and others that once populated the Gulf would be taken in such abundance that eventually the population dwindled and the pickings became sparse The same would happen to another species the birds that migrated along main migration paths from the Yucat n Peninsula and further south to the northern U S Entire rookeries were destroyed in a single day, some of it in the area of Everglades City but also along the entire coast up through Texas As many as five million birds were killed annually for plumes at the height of the put a feather in your cap fad of plumage in ladies hats The large wading birds egrets, heron, ibis and so on were particularly favored for their long feathers A name often associated with this is Jean Chevalier, a bird hunter who started destroying rookeries around Tampa when plumage became valuable in 1870 and moved down the coast, killing birds in the Ten Thousand Islands in the mid 1880s As tourism increased, the Gulf Coast especially very large resort and spa hotels sprouted along the Gulf coast especially the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts The hospitality industry blossomed One hotel clocked in at 860,000 square feet Interest shifted a bit from fishing to the health benefits of warm salt water, mineral springs, and a day on the beach But it was not all balmy winds and calm seas roughly every eight years the northern coast of the Gulf was hit by a major hurricane In 1893 and 1898 hurricanes swept spas and hotels away under storm surges up to 16 feet, and in 1900 a major storm obliterated Galveston, Texas The 1900 storm remains the most devastating American natural disaster, with up to 12,000 dead and all of Galveston Island destroyed In 1910 a hurricane hit the Ten Thousand Islands with much damage another in 1927 But fortunately, there wasn t a lot to damage in the Ten Thousand Islands.Tourism brought with it a land rush Men called binders sat at street corners selling real estate the binder was a transferable contract to buy property with a ten percent deposit Most buyers planned not to occupy the land but to sell the binder at a higher price it was a tool for speculation Land prices increased until the Florida Land Bust of 1925, of which Grouch Marx remarked, You can get anything you want in Florida You can even get stucco Boy, can you get stuck o. The next miracle growth medicine for the Gulf Coast was oil Prospectors had a simple way of finding oil look for salt domes, of which there were 500 along the Gulf coast Salt domes were land upthrusts from that vast ancient sea that had once gone up to Illinois the dome was a sign of pressure from below, possibly from natural gas, pushing upward on an impervious layer of salt, forcing the subsurface rock to rise and creating ridges on the earth s surface The primary locations of salt domes were Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf itself The first salt dome to be exploited was near Beaumont, Texas The flood of oil found there in 1890 at a hill called Spindletop did not last long, but it began a flood of oil rigs to the area The rigs soon went farther afield and into the Gulf itself, first as shoreside rigs located on piers and later, as technology improved, as stand alone platforms well out into the Gulf By the 1930s oil was the Gulf s growth industry It was discovered just in time to fuel the growth of the automobile industry, repower the shipping industry, and replace coal a the primary source of fuel Davis reports that during World War II German submarines marauded the Gulf and the light from blazing oil tankers and rigs was a common sight along the shore.This synopsis carries Gulf from its earliest days through WWII and into the modern era It is long reflecting the depth of information in the book, and its length 550 pages But it masks the delightfully breezy style that Davis brings to the people and events that drove the Gulf coast through its remarkable periods of growth and decline It also masks the primary message of the book each phase of growth created ecological consequences that moved Florida further away from it origin as a coastal paradise Anything less than five stars would be an unwarranted insult This history is destined for the bookshelves at homes and universities for a long time to come, long after it leaves its well earned spot on bedside tables.Five Stars
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the The Gulf book, this is one of the most wanted Jack E. Davis author readers around the world.
- 608 pages
- The Gulf
- Jack E. Davis
- 11 December 2017 Jack E. Davis