Kings of the Yukon One summer paddling across the far north

Adam Weymouth

Book - 2018

"The Yukon river is 2,000 miles long, the longest stretch of free-flowing river in the United States. In this riveting examination of one of the last wild places on earth, Adam Weymouth canoes along the river's length, from Canada's Yukon Territory, through Alaska, to the Bering Sea. The result is a book that shows how even the most remote wilderness is affected by the same forces reshaping the rest of the planet."--Dust jacket.

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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

British journalist Weymouth ventures 2,000 miles on the Yukon River in an earnest quest to discover whether the Chinook salmon (or king salmon), which is in rapid decline worldwide, can survive in "the last chance on earth to get it right." Weymouth interweaves his observations on wildlife with an analysis of sociopolitical and environmental factors that affect not just the salmon but also the people whose cultures and economies are built around it. He is adept at technical descriptions of how hatcheries and fishwheels work ("around a central axle, traditionally greased with bear fat, are two baskets formed from a lattice of spruce poles") and how integral salmon is to the ecosystem (grizzly bears "can get through 40 salmon in eight hours" in order to gain 50% of their body weight before winter). He is knowledgeable about attempts to control salmon that date back centuries and the battle between subsistence fishers and wildlife managers. His most effective vignettes record interactions with those he met on his journey, including Alaskan reality TV stars who battled a raging flood and an 84-year-old woman at her fish camp. This is a richly told history of one of North America's most remote wildernesses. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

When freelance journalist Weymouth decided to canoe 1,500 miles down the Yukon River, he wasn't off on a typical outdoors adventure. Instead, he used the journey to understand how king salmon runs have changed and impacted the area. In this process, Weymouth talked to fish biologists, data crunchers, First Nations people, Alaskan Athabaskans, and many others about king salmon. Through these intimate portraits, Weymouth delved into each group's relationship with the salmon and the Yukon, while tracing the changes that overfishing, government regulations, and cultural shifts have created. The author also explores industrial fish farming, salmon canneries, and the cost of "wild" salmon found in supermarkets. The writing is lyrical, whether describing a gull in the wind, the difference between nomadism and restlessness, the symbiosis of people and fish, or the slow amble of Prudhoe Bay's oil down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. VERDICT Equal parts natural history, travelog, and cultural history, this work will appeal to readers of all three genres, especially fans of John McPhee.-Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An analysis of the long history and perilous future of king salmon as well as an assessment of how the fish's vitality directly correlates to that of Alaska as a whole.Given the subtitle of the book, readers could be forgiven for expecting a straightforward travelogue. While that's certainly part of it--debut author and London-based environmental writer Weymouth canoed roughly 2,000 miles down the famed Yukon River, "the longest salmon run in the world"--the narrative is largely about the fish itself and the people in the villages along the way who rely on it for sustenance, physically and economically. The king salmon is undoubtedly in decline, in both sheer numbers and average poundage. Many readers will assume that climate change is to blame, but the author discovered that the real reasons are much more complicated and go all the way back to the discoveries of gold and oil, when the wild Alaskan frontier became more commercialized and domesticated. Throughout the book, Weymouth introduces us to a memorable cast of colorful characters, including numerous Native families and some reality TV stars (the author posits, only half-jokingly, that Alaska has more per capita than any other state). Readers will also encounter a number of lively history lessons of salmon, the Native peoples of Alaska, and the state itself. As he writes, "the history of the salmon is the history of this land….[The Yukon] intimately connected the lives of a Tlingit Indian at the river's source and a Yupik Eskimo on Alaska's coast, two thousand miles away, even before these people were aware of each other's existence. It is a link to peoples' ancestors and their hope for their children's children."In this timely story "of relationships, of the symbiosis of people and fish, of the imprint that one leaves on the other," Weymouth keeps the pages turning to the very end.

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