Island in a Storm

Island in a Storm : A Rising Sea, a Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-century Disaster That Warns of a Warmer World

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In the mid-nineteenth century, the Isle Derniere was emerging as an exclusive summer resort on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. About one hundred miles from New Orleans, it attracted the most prominent members of antebellum Louisiana society. Hundreds of affluent planters and merchants retreated to the island, not just for its pleasures, but also to escape the scourge of yellow fever epidemics that ravaged cities like New Orleans each summer. Then, without warning, on August 10, 1856, a ferocious hurricane swept across the island, killing half of its four hundred inhabitants. The Isle Derniere was left barren, except for a strange forest standing in the surf. Drawing from a rich trove of newspaper articles, letters, diaries, and interviews, Abby Sallenger re-creates the chain of events that led a group of people to seek refuge on an exposed strip of land in the sea. He chronicles the dramatic course of the hurricane itself, as seen through the eyes of a diverse cast of real-life characters, including eighteen-year-old Emma Mille, her French father, a steamboat captain, a pastor, and a slave. Island in a Storm is the story of their bravery and cowardice, luck and misfortune, life and death. At the heart of this narrative lies another, equally compelling, story. Sallenger, an oceanographer, traces the insidious link between the environmental deaths across the Mississippi delta and the human deaths that occurred when the storm swept ashore. The result is a fascinating portrait of a coast in perpetual motion and a rising sea that made the Isle Derniere particularly vulnerable to a great hurricane. Ultimately, Island in a Storm is a cautionary environmental tale. Global warming is spreading the unique hazards of river deltas to coasts around the world, and the signs of what happened to Isle Derniere may soon be appearing on other islands. The account of this nineteenth-century disaster and its aftermath offers a vital historical lesson as we continue to develop precarious coastal locations whose vulnerability will only grow as sea levels rise across the more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 521.63g
  • PublicAffairs,U.S.
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • H
  • 1586485156
  • 9781586485153

About Asbury Sallenger

Abby (Asbury) Sallenger received his BA in Geology and PhD in Marine Science from the University of Virginia and is the former chief scientist of the U.S. Geological Survey's Center for Coastal Geology. He presently leads the USGS Storm Impact research group, investigating how the coast changes during extreme storms, such as hurricanes Isabel, Ivan, Katrina, and Ike. As an undergraduate at U.Va., Abby was a student athlete, playing four years of intercollegiate football. He and his wife live in more

Review quote

Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Rice University and author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast "Perhaps the most urgent crisis of our time is Global Warming. In Island in a Storm one of America's top oceanographers--Abby Sallenger--documents the perils of coastal erosion. Using Isle Derniere as case-study, Sallenger brilliantly explains what happens when the sea rises and land disappears. A very important book!"Bethany Ewald Bultman, author of Reflections of the South, Compass New Orleans, and Compass Gulf South, and the descendent of thirteen victims of the 1856 Isle Dernier Hurricane "A masterful page-turner juxtaposing the remarkable parallel tales of the survival by a 19th century Creole maiden of a catastrophic hurricane with the staggering geological perils confronting the residents of the fragile Gulf coastline today."Ellen Prager, PhD, chief scientist, Aquarius Reef Base and author ofshow more

Rating details

80 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 28% (22)
4 30% (24)
3 28% (22)
2 12% (10)
1 2% (2)
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