2022 NAUTILUS SILVER WINNER FOR LYRIC PROSE—In The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes, Lynne Heasley illuminates an underwater world that, despite a ferocious industrial history, remains wondrous and worthy of care. From its first scene in a benighted Great Lakes river, where lake sturgeon thrash and spawn, this powerful book takes readers on journeys through the Great Lakes, alongside fish and fishers, scuba divers and scientists, toxic pollutants and threatened communities, oil pipelines and invasive species, Indigenous peoples and federal agencies. With dazzling illustrations from Glenn Wolff, the book helps us know the Great Lakes in new ways and grapple with the legacies and alternative futures that come from their abundance of natural wealth. Suffused with curiosity, empathy, and wit, The Accidental Reef will not fail to astonish and inspire.
Foreword, by Jerry Dennis
Part I. Freshwater Reef: A World Below and Beyond
At the Reef
Feast and Famine
On Naming and Knowing
Part II. On Seeing and Knowing: An Underwater Biography
Waters That Bind
An Interview about Seeing
Power in the Visual
A Not-So-Objective Introduction to the Fish Consumption Advisory
Rooted in Sustainability
A Dazzling Discovery
(Seeing + Knowing) × Time = Hope?
Part III. The Paradox of Abundance: Or, Problems of Scale
Negotiating Abundance and Scarcity, with Daniel Macfarlane
Water, Oil, and Fish, with Daniel Macfarlane
Salt Mines and Iron Ranges (An Extraction Index)
The Paradox of Abundance
The Accidental Reef
Magnificent. Beautifully illustrated and written. Lynne Heasley’s essays branch out to past and present, to the complex Great Lakes environmental web that binds the creatures of the water and we humans together. Her writing style is both soundly science based and also brilliantly literary. It’s a pleasure to be in the presence of a mind that can so adeptly traverse science and history while also maintaining an erudite style and adroit essay structure that keeps my attention. Plus, it’s a big statement about Michigan water intelligence.
—Anne-Marie Ooman, author of As Long as I Know You: The Mom Book, 2021 winner of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Sue William Silverman Prize for Creative Nonfiction
In The Accidental Reef, Lynne Heasley has done something extraordinary: she has woven together threads from fisheries ecology, environmental humanities, and literary nonfiction into a multifaceted tapestry illuminating the Great Lakes. Heasley explores the ways that biological dramas collide with ecological, historical, and cultural transformations. Her arguments are intelligent, surprising, and provocative, and her writing is lyrical, offering us new insights on the watery creatures that make their homes in the Great Lakes.
—Nancy Langston, distinguished professor of environmental history, Michigan Technological University, and author of Climate Ghosts: Migratory Species in the Anthropocene
Science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. In The Accidental Reef, Lynne Heasley has used science, history, and literary arts to create a sense of wonder for an obscure reef in the St. Clair River and the Great Lakes. Heasley leads a reader to see, know, and understand these freshwater seas from different perspectives—ones that are essential to developing a stewardship ethic.
—John H. Hartig, visiting scholar, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, and author of Waterfront Porch: Reclaiming Detroit's Industrial Waterfront as a Gathering Place for All
Uber-attuned to landscapes both inner and outer, The Accidental Reef gives life and voice to a marginalized body of water. In this immersive hybrid, Lynne Heasley nets all perspectives, even slipping beneath the surface of the Great Lakes to illuminate the myriad relationships that comprise a watershed.
—Chris Dombrowski, author of Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Alluring Fish
Lynne Heasley’s The Accidental Reef offers a fresh perspective on the state of the Great Lakes. Based on thorough research and carried by lush writing, it is one of the best Great Lakes books of our era.
—Dave Dempsey, author of Great Lakes for Sale: From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps and On the Brink: The Great Lakes in the 21st Century
This amazing book folds history, science, art, commerce, literature, research, and human impact on the lakes into a new portrait of the freshwater seas and life below the surface that most of us seldom see or fully appreciate. The book's brilliant inter-connected essays begin with the importance of a little known reef in the St. Clair River that was created by coal burning boats who dumped their clinkers overboard near Algonac. . . . All of this is delivered in almost magical prose filled with humor, spellbinding descriptions, great observations, and stunning facts.
—Michigan in Books
Lynne Heasley combines difficult science, reportage, historical and literary sensibilities with a crystalline style that is not afraid to confront state of the art research with the occasional lyrical flourish, and even sometimes with a bit of humor. A unique book, one of the most readable regional environmental books I have encountered.
—Keith Taylor, author of Let Them Be Left and The Bird-while
Lynne Heasley beckons the reader of The Accidental Reef to see the Great Lakes through a kaleidoscope. And through her kaleidoscopic vision, the world of the Great Lakes is reflected and refracted… In vivid, poetic, and often humorous prose, Heasley tells the stories of the lives lived on and in the St. Clair River. She weaves together a menagerie of stories ranging from industrial pollution, the deep history of zebra mussels, the sex lives of sturgeon, and the lost lures of fishers recovered by an intrepid scuba diver seeking to restore broken relationships both in and out of the water. Heasley’s work is a lighthouse—warning all those who rely on the steady supply of freshwater that we are too close to shore and without immediate action, we risk crashing into it. —Michigan Historical Review