Posted on October 25, 2012 under General, Natural History, Trip Planning Resources
Alaska’s Land of Extremes

Alaska Natural History


I just purchased 14 books. Not 14 different books but 14 copies of the same book and it wasn’t even a mistake. University of Chicago Press just released “Land of Extremes” by Alex Huryn and John Hobbie, and I wanted copies for all our guides and for our trip libraries too. It won’t be a replacement for my dog-eared, rain swelled and mosquito stained copy of “The Naturalists Guide to the Arctic” by E.C. Pielou which has traveled with me for the past 15 years but this new book definitely deserves a place in your backpack and on your bookshelf.

Like the classic “Naturalist Guide” the book has information about the great diversity of life forms and natural processes unique to the arctic. It also has the added benefit of being specifically focused on the North Slope of Alaska. Examples of physical features like auf eis are from familiar places and the flowers pictured are the species we are likely to see on any of our North Slope trips. What is more, Huryn and Hobbie draw on the decades of research from the Toolik Field Station in the Brooks Range Foothills and the information in the book is current and full of insights from the latest research. The authors endeavored to not only help the traveler to the arctic identify the flora and fauna but to understand the ecological importance and connections between the physical environment and its many life forms.

I was initially skeptical of any book trying to mimic or update the “Naturalists Guide to the Arctic”, but “Land of Extremes” is a thoroughly researched and well written book explaining the fascinating adaptations of flora and fauna to the rigors of life on Alaska’s North Slope. I’ll keep working on my book, but in the meantime I’ll pack both  Land of Extremes and the Naturalist Guide to the Arctic.

By Michael Wald co-owner and guide.