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Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the…

Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay (original: 1976; edição: 1994)

de William W. Warner, John Barth (Introdução)

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465841,280 (4.2)31
William Warner exhibits his skill as a naturalist and as a writer in this Pulitzer Prize-winning study of the pugnacious Atlantic blue crab and of its Chesapeake Bay territory. Penguin Nature Library.
Título:Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay
Autores:William W. Warner
Outros autores:John Barth (Introdução)
Informação:Back Bay Books (1994), Paperback, 352 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca

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Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay de William W. Warner (1976)


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I was asked to read Beautiful Swimmers for our book club. I really enjoyed reading this book about the history of the watermen on the Chesapeake Bay, the blue crab and its life cycles, and the islands on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. It was interesting to read about the declining trade and the erosion due to the increase in population. The book is wonderfully descriptive, I enjoyed learning about the various subtleties in color between the male and female crabs. I learned a lot about the blue crabs that I have enjoyed my entire life, growing up in Maryland. The sheer physicality of the watermen, and the time on the water to prep and collect their trade was very interesting.
I liked the illustrations in this version, and the afterword, updating the effects of erosion on the community and the seafood trade. Quite an interesting way of life.
#BeautifulSwimmers #WilliamWWarner ( )
  rmarcin | Apr 21, 2019 |
So, there you are, in 2017, reading a 1994 reprint edition of a 1977 Pulitzer Prize winning book in non-fiction. You've already lost the interest of millions of potential readers who believe the only good book is a fictional one, or at least a non-fictional one structured to feel just like a fictional one, with a clear plot, central characters, and the rest. To be sure, this is not one of those books written -- how should I say it? -- with lots of creative flair. Then, to add to its problems, it is full of very dated comments about the economy of its day, when prices and wages were dramatically different from today. However, for me, that is all almost besides the point. The author is presenting the intricate interactions of creatures and people in the vast, complex ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. First, it has going for it that this reader lives and has spent much time on the water in the fairly comparable Puget Sound and Salish Sea area. There is lots to draw upon for interest. Secondly, being someone who still vividly remembers stopping on a simple but typical two-lane highway and paying only 25 cents a gallon for gasoline during especially contentious price wars, this reader can adjust more quickly than many others much younger to the seemingly bizarre monetary figures thrown about in this book. (Only a couple bucks for a pound of crab, indeed!) And yet, most importantly, the author is so patiently thorough in his investigation of his subject, that his writing eventually wins the reader over. He has just enough background in the subject to know what he doesn't know and how to go about learning the most he can about what he needs to know. In this case, this is a book concentrating on "watermen" making a living on seafood harvesting. Imagine yourself, perhaps, as a person whose mother was a good cook and allowed you to participate fully, as a child, in preparing a variety of foods for family meals. What foods? What kind to buy? What was a good price? What equipment used to prepare them, to cook them? In the author's case, he was brought up on the waters of the Bay, and he almost instinctively knew how to approach and spend time with these watermen. (There is one chapter on his time with a particular crabber that is worth the price of admission all on its own, and there are others nearly as good.) In essence, he was offered a chance to spend a lot of time with his own equivalent of "top chefs" and has passed along what he learned to us. The journey into the ecology, the economy, the personalities, the localities, is ultimately very satisfying. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
The Beautiful Swimmers of the title are the Atlantic blue crabs aka Callinectes sapidus Rathbun and over the course of the book Warner gives the reader a detailed story of the crabs life cycle and habitat. We are also treated to a wonderful depiction of the Chesapeake as one of the most important estuaries in the world and the lives of the watermen who ply its bays, creeks, and marshes and make their living from its bounty. I really enjoyed Warner's narrative as he went out in all seasons with the watermen, helping (where he could) with their harvest and listening to their stories. Definitely recommended.
  hailelib | Dec 6, 2014 |
This book is everything you have ever wanted to know about crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay. Seriously. It's an extensive look at the watermen who make their living hauling up blue crabs. More than a science tutorial on the quick and aggressive critters, it is also a lesson in personality - the type of individual who makes a living hauling in crabs. The illustrations by Consuelo Hanks are phenomenal. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 23, 2013 |
William Warner’s Beautiful Swimmers is a classic piece of narrative non-fiction, and a fine introduction to the blue crabs of Chesapeake Bay and the working lives of the “watermen” who pursue them. It bears comparison to Rachel Carson’s The Edge of the Sea (for its attention to natural history, and its deft integration of the latest scientific data), to Henry Beston’s The Outermost House (for its portrait of a beautiful, isolated coastline), and to Michael Ruhlman’s Wooden Boats (for its sympathetic portraits of people whose work keeps alive a slowly dying art), but its greatest strength is the way it combines those elements. The design of Chesapeake Bay workboats, changing state and federal fisheries regulations, the economics of the seafood business, and the changing demographics of the bayside communities come into the story, too. Warner’s goal is to craft a fully rounded, fully integrated portrait of the watermen’s world, and he succeeds – brilliantly.

Published in 1976 and based on visits made over several years, Beautiful Swimmers describes the Cheasapeake, and the watermen, as they existed forty years ago. It is, in other words, a time capsule: A window on a world that no longer exists. The middle-aged watermen that Warner put to sea with are retired or dead, now, and the younger ones now grown to gray-haired patriarchs for whom the early seventies are a distant memory. Development, tourism, pollution, and overfishing have – if four decades of changes to my coastal New England home are a guide – erased some of the uniqueness, and some of the insularity, of the world that Warner wrote about.

If Warner could, as he wrote, see such changes coming, he kept his thoughts about them to himself. Beautiful Swimmers isn’t a prescription for what the Bay should become or a cautionary tale of what it might become. It’s a beautifully crafted declarative sentence of book that quietly says: “At this place, in this time, this is how it was.” ( )
1 vote ABVR | Dec 21, 2012 |
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Commercial crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay reveals itself very slowly to the outsider.
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William Warner exhibits his skill as a naturalist and as a writer in this Pulitzer Prize-winning study of the pugnacious Atlantic blue crab and of its Chesapeake Bay territory. Penguin Nature Library.

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