Unlikely wonders and the wind
“Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders” (Workman Publishing) by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton is a marvelous compendium of some of the most little known, unknown and intriguing places you’re likely to encounter.
The authors launched this project in 2009 as an attempt to create a catalog of the people, things and places that had contributed to their sense of wonder at some of the eccentricities and oddities scattered around the globe.
These range from the neon boneyard in Vegas to numerous outsider folk art environments, land art projects from Nancy Holt’s “Sun Tunnels” and Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty,” and the Berkley Open Pit mine in Butte, to little known collections and museums such as the Museum of Clean in Pocatello.
It’s a cabinet of curiosities filled with the unexpected—glowworm caves, Marta Beckett’s Amargosa Opera House, a pub inside a baobob tree and the sixty pound “nuts” that grow in the Seychelles.
It’s a great collection of things that don’t make it into your average travel guides. It functions well as both object for coffee table browsing and guidebook for getting places.
The book groups entries geographically — Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Canada, the U.S., Latin America and Antarctica.
While the authors provide details on how to find and/or reach each place or thing; it is also a catalog of the wonders of the human imagination from self-built cathedrals and catacombs to mosaics constructed from 11 million cigar bands, to name but a few of the hundreds of entries. It is compulsively addictive reading — one thing leading to many others.
Bill Streever is an Alaskan biologist who’s published books on tales of adventures in some of the worlds most frozen and fiery climatic extremes.
His latest offering is “And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind: A Natural History of Moving Air” (Little Brown) which combines observations on natural history and science with personal adventures.
Whether he’s considering why and how hurricanes spin, the relationships between chaos theory and weather forecasting or trying to calculate how many pounds of dirt the Dust Bowl of the 1930s blew into Chicago, Steever’s brisk prose pulls us along on these tales of a force of nature.
From the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to the Wright Brothers wind tunnel, weather balloons and Darwin’s voyages on the HMS Beagle as well as the effect winds had on determining the day of the Normandy invasion in World War II, the collection of wind-driven flotsam and jetsam that Streever assembles make for intriguing reading.
Kirk Robertson covers the arts and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org