Friday, February 12, 2010
Tofino Books: Beyond The Outer Shores
Although I work primarily as a writer and editor, my degree is in biology. And since I was raised on Vancouver Island and spent a lot of happy times at the seaside, it's no wonder that marine biology has been a lifelong passion. My first children's book was on the ocean and I spent three wonderful years teaching marine biology at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. If you've been following this blog for awhile, you'll also know I have a passion for local history. So when Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Story of Ed Ricketts, The Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell hit the bookstore shelves in 2004, I quickly snapped up a copy.
“An affecting and mind-expanding group portrait of three creative thinkers, but Ricketts glows the brightest, a friend to bums and geniuses who was happiest knee-deep in a tide pool.” — Review of Beyond the Outer Shores in Booklist
No doubt you've heard of John Steinbeck, and likely even Joseph Campbell, but outside of biology circles, few have heard of Ed Ricketts. That's a real shame, since he played such a role in the lives of these two more famous men, and was a fascinating character in his own right. I knew of Ricketts from the marine biology classic: Between Pacific Tides (he also co-authored The Sea of Cortez with Steinbeck, BTW). Between Pacific Tides is still an invaluable book on my bookshelf, snuggled alongside many other marine biology necessities.
In Beyond the Outer Shores, author Eric Enno Tamm (who grew up in Ucluelet) has revealed a new part of Rickett's story. Apropos to Tofino and Clayoquot Sound, Tamm unearthed the time that Rickett's spent on Stubbs Island, just off from Tofino, exploring the intertidal and collecting specimens. It's a remarkable story, and gives a wonderful glimpse of life on the coast in 1945, including life on Stubb's at the time (he stayed at the Clayoquot Hotel), Ucluelet and area. Ricketts was making preparations for a return visit, when he was killed by a train.
Be sure to check out the excellent website devoted to the book. There are excerpts, a synopsis, a slide show of species named after Ricketts (or Steinbeck) and more.