by William Nothdurft with Josh Smith
This book begins with a vivid description of destruction raining down on dinosaurs from above.
The second extinction of the dinosaurs from the Bahariya Oasis began shortly after midnight. It came from the sky. It began with a barely discernible disturbance in the air, a distant rumble that insinuated itself into the quiet of the night and quickly grew in intensity to a deafening roar. Then, suddenly, the sound became sight and the dark became light as the sky itself became fire. Moments later the roaring was punctuated by a stunning explosion that shattered the still night air. Then another. Then dozens more, until the earth shook and the ground split.I anticipated my son being immediately transfixed. This book is recommended for Earth Studies in year 1 of Level 5 (ninth grade) in the beta Mater Amabilis™ high school plans, currently found only in the high school group on Facebook. I think it would also work in the second year of Level 5 which includes a study of Africa.
Early in the book, while talking about Dr. Stromer, the German in Egypt, the author describes a feeling that appears often in Charlotte Mason's geography book that we're also reading this year.
He was an unreconstructed colonialist snob. His journal makes it clear that he regarded the Egyptians he hired as inferior beings--ignorant, dirty, greedy, devious, even dangerous. The great irony, one that no doubt would have been lost on a Victorian-era aristocrat like Stromer, was that he depended upon these people utterly--to manage the camels, to guide him through the desert and keep him safe, to cook for him, and to carry burdens.The book tells the story of one group of paleontologists who sought the original site of a German scientist's discoveries in Egypt before World War I. He was never able to return and, surprisingly given his success, no one else had either. It's a fascinating and fast-paced report of what life is actually like for graduate students and fellows planning an expedition and suffering through it's excitement and disappointments. Allison Tumarkin, a graduate student in the group, wrote in her journal:
Okay, now I know I'm really in the field. My clothes are covered in plaster, my hands are permanently Vinaced, my skin is cracking from plaster burn, my knees and shins are covered with bruises and every other word out of my mouth seems to be an expletive. We have so many inside jokes at this point it's like we've invented our own language. How could anyone ask for more?There are a few descriptions of interactions with local Egyptians (in addition to the Egyptian scientists who participated in the expedition). Ken Lacovara, who could play the drums a little, talked about the differences between how American play drums and how Egyptians play drums. One evening, he had the opportunity to join in a community event.
For Americans, music--especially jazz--is a form of self-expression. For Egyptians, though, playing in a large group, it's more an expression of solidarity and camaraderie. But it was great fun anyway; I couldn't hold a conversation with these guys, but at least we could speak in music.There are a few moments in the book that convey the thrill and amazement of field studies. Ken Lacovara talked about a rock he found with a colleague, Jen Smith:
When Jen and I looked at that rock, we were looking literally at a ten-second snapshot of part of the history of the world, a moment almost a hundred million years ago--one frame of the movie--preserved for all time.This is a marvelous book of popular science for high schoolers, especially those interested in paleontology. It combines bits and pieces of paleontology (of course), geology, geography, culture, history, scientific methodology, and the culture of science. First Son is only a few weeks in, but he's enjoying it tremendously.
I purchased this book used and have received nothing for this honest review. The links above are affiliate links to Amazon.