Reading the north

The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah

Linda R. Wires; illustrations by Barry Kent Mackay (Yale University Press, $30)

The blurb: "The Double-Crested Cormorant" offers an environmental insider's critique of the science, management and ethics underlying the double-crested cormorant's treatment today. Wires exposes "management" as a euphemism for persecution and shows that the current strategies of aggressive predator control are outdated and unsupported by science. She offers a fascinating snapshot of a miscast creature that merits protection and appreciation rather than life-threatening biases.

Excerpt: Alaska and the Pacific Coast: On the western portion of the continent, a range of complex factors limited the extent to which conservation actions allowed cormorants to recover. In Alaska, the Aleutian Islands were designated as an NWR in 1913 and set aside for the protection of native birds. But they were reserved also for the propagation of fur-bearing animals, and fur farming peaked in the 1920s. How much the introduction of such mammals affected cormorant populations is not clear, but in the mid-1990s, large and diverse seabird populations were reported to exist only on a few islands between southeastern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands where foxes had never been introduced, indicating that impacts to all seabirds were substantial.

In the Pacific Northwest, the first nesting record from the inner coast of British Columbia was obtained in 1927 on Mandarte Island in the Strait of Georgia. Protected from human disturbance since 1914, the site probably provided a safe haven for cormorants. In 1933, a second colony in the same area, thought to be the older of the two, was discovered at Ballingall Islets. In 1937, two more colonies were discovered in the vicinity of the nearby San Juan Islands in Washington. These four colonies were the only known sites in the inner coastal waters until the late 1940s.

Jump Shot: Kenny Sailors, Basketball Innovator and Alaskan Outfitter

Lew Freedman (WestWinds Press, 16.99)

The blurb: When Kenny Sailors stepped off the merry-go-round of his 1947-48 season, he was employed by the Providence Steamrollers. Providence is located about 45 miles from Boston, which may not have been a big deal at the dawn of the pro league, but was destined to kill off the team trying to make it in the same general market as the Boston Celtics.

Providence was kinder to Sailors than Cleveland, Chicago, or Philadelphia had been. He found regular playing time and emerged as the leading scorer and playmaker for the Steamrollers that season and the next year, as well.

The biggest obstacle in Providence at the time, though, was winning. The Steamrollers finished 6-42 in the shortened '47-48 season.

Excerpt: "It seemed like they changed coaches every week," Sailors said. "The big issue was that we didn't have a big man. You couldn't play in that league without a big man. You had to have one. It was depressing losing all of the time. The owners wouldn't spend the money to get a big man. I was pretty disgusted by all of the losing, but I was in it for the money. That was my job. As long as I got paid I was going to stay. They didn't miss any paychecks. They paid us."

Sailors averaged 15.8 points a game and 3.7 assists per game for the 1948-49 season. He was eighth in the league in both categories and that made him popular enough in Providence to gain his first product endorsement. The top stars in pro basketball today can earn millions of dollars by lending their names to basketball shoe manufacturers, car dealerships, wireless phone companies or food products.

However, it is unlikely that any player now, or ever, had a less glamorous endorsement deal than Sailors did with Providence. Bennett's Prune Juice did not make him rich, but he was supplied with all the drink he wanted.