What Can 19th Century Storms Teach Us?

Lightning in Perhentian Island, Terengganu, Malaysia
Storm over an island in Malaysia

Destination: Louisiana Coast

Book: Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, A Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster That Warns of a Warmer World, by Dr. Abby Sallenger

A Guest post by Dr. Jessie Voigts

I’ve got THE BEST book to share with you today. Authored by Abby Sallenger, PhD, [amazonify]1586485156::text::::Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, A Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster That Warns of a Warmer World[/amazonify] is a glimpse of life in another century, where storms have power but surviving them was much different than it is today.

In the mid-nineteenth century, in Louisiana (a foreshadowing of Hurricanes Ike and Katrina), a powerful hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, sunk ships, ended or changed lives, and almost erased a barrier island, the resort-island, Isle Derniere. This book combines history, geography, geology, and the true story of people who lived through this storm – and the challenges they faced in the 1856 storm (and afterward). Sallenger writes compellingly of the people who lived through it.  He did extensive historical research on the families involved, as well as geological facts that not only teach us about this storm and its aftermath, but teach us that we need to learn from history in order not to repeat it. However, we can still see development happening along coastlines in this country that repeat the mistakes of the past.

We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Abby, about his book, doing research, and listening to the earth. Here’s what he had to say…

Wandering Educators: Please tell us about your book, Island in a Storm…

Abby Sallenger: Island in a Storm is set in Louisiana, but develops lessons relevant to problems faced along U.S. coasts today. The story is about a hurricane that swept ashore in the mid-nineteenth century, killing half the people on a barrier island called Isle Derniere. It’s a true story of the sea rising relative to the land—and the land changing in ways that made the island, and the people who lived there, vulnerable to a great storm. It’s about the people who faced that hurricane, and how they came into harm’s way by seemingly disparate, sometimes odd intersections of science, culture, disease, and agriculture. In the end, the book is about an island dying and what this means for the world’s barrier islands in a warmer world.

Go to Wandering Educators to read the rest of the interview with Dr. Sallenger.


The phenomenal storm photo accompanying this post is from Flickr, click photo for more info. Although it is not an island off Louisiana, it is an island in a storm.

Thanks so much Jessie, for another great contribution to A Traveler’s Library and to our bookshelves. If you want to read about another disappearing island, see Surviving Paradise

See the post just above this one for the First Grand Prize of the Great Big Travel Literature Giveaway and information on how to win.

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

3 thoughts on “What Can 19th Century Storms Teach Us?

  1. I have flipped though this book at the bookstore. I have a relative that lived through Katrina, and Sallenger’ s “Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, A Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster That Warns of a Warmer World” was of great interest to me when it was released. The human stories are fascinating. And we should pay close attention to the warning that we recieve from this tragedy. Thank you for reviewing the book.

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