When it started, they were still in France. Captain Eads, with his jetties, has done a work at the mouth of the Mississippi which seemed clearly impossible; so we do not feel full confidence now to prophesy against like impossibilities. But every atom that moves onward in the river, from the moment it leaves its home among the crystal springs or mountain snows, throughout the fifteen hundred leagues of its devious pathway, until it is finally lost in the vast waters of the Gulf, is controlled by laws as fixed and certain as those which direct the majestic march of the heavenly spheres. McPhee went to Hawaii to talk with them and to walk beside the edges of a molten lake and incandescent rivers. When there are heavy local rains, as there were at the time of the great flood of 1973, water that is kept out of the floodway by the seventy-five miles of the eastern guide levee—water that used to go into the swamp and the river when the basin was under the control of nature—pools against the levee, caroms in the direction of the Gulf, and assaults Morgan City from the back side. They draw me into thoughts of my own.
His description of the larger ecosystem is very prescient. I thought the book would have profited from the inclusion of illustrations. John McPhee's 'The Control of Nature. Behind the levees, the fields were flat and reached to rows of distant trees. I always gave McPhee credit for being able to make a wallpaper seminar given in northern England sound like the high point of a trip to Europe, but in The Control of Nature, a book about things decidedly more interesting than wallpaper, I found my mind kept wandering.
The Corps was not intending to accommodate nature. Some outcomes can be predicted but many, usually the negative ones, arrive unexpectedly or worse, go unnoticed. There are in Louisiana ten thousand miles of canals. Army Corps of Engineers has declared war on the lower Mississippi River, which threatens to follow a new route to the sea and cut off New Orleans and Baton Rouge from the rest of the Uni John McPhee is an inspired observer, outdoorsman and a writer with ultimate mastery of the English language. The actual circumstances may have changed since McPhee first wrote his articles that became this can't-put-down book; the author's richly compelling way with words hasn't. As he always does, John McPhee here blends history, science, biography, anecdote and the occasional personal intrusion to explain it all.
Some of the more expensive real estate in Los Angeles is up against mountains that are rising and disintegrating as rapidly as any in the world. It was particularly chilling to read his description of the levee system in New Orleans before the Katrina Hurricane and see how precarious our engineering systems are. If it were dissected by streams--given promontories and reentrants, serrated by canyons, invaded by shadows--it might look something like the Alps. It is also clear that, even among those who should know better, the lure of living above the smog is nearly irresistible. Here and again in the fields, pump jacks bobbed for oil. A coonass being a Cajun, I threw him an appreciative smile. The greater turbulence allowed the water on the Atchafalaya side to dig deeper and increase its advantage over the Mississippi side.
John McPhee is an avid outdoorsman. A basketball player would reverse pivot—shielding the ball, whirling the body in a complete circle to leave the defender flat as a sandbar. We are charged by Congress not to let that happen. McPhee spent months trying to understand the centuries of engineering prowess that have gone into trying to control the Mississippi, especially the creation of structures much in the news today, and the , which over the weekend to allow floodwaters to course down through the Atchafalaya basin. Meanwhile, at 31 degrees north latitude about halfway between Vicksburg and Baton Rouge he made a bold move on the Mississippi. We have our homes, our families, our whole future in the floodway.
Two men in life vests, who stand on the swaying deck in spray that curls like smoke, let go a fifty-pound ball that drops on a cable from a big stainless reel. There will be a bigger and bigger differential head as time goes on. The president of the commission would always be an Army engineer, and all decisions were subject to veto by the commandant of the Corps. The Atchafalaya, continuing to grow, had become, by volume of discharge, the second-largest river in the United States. In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World. The cage should just lightly touch the bottom, with the closed end slightly raised.
In the face of disaster, there was no better place to go. What this boat pushes is the program of the Corps. The state went on its knees before the Corps: Do something. But others try to control nature. Knowing the area and the reality, I never truly understood major aspects of the Mississippi River and its lower reaches particularly. I thought this book was quite fascinating - the two U. Taking us deep into these contested territories, McPhee details the strategies and tactics through which people attempt to control nature.
One could scarcely hear them as they went by. The soybean farmers of Morganza were begging the Corps not to open them now. The fisherman went to find Dugas, in his command post at the north end of the structure, and told him the guide wall had moved. They press down on the mucks beneath them and squirt materials out to the sides. Our floods last for months. In the upper valley, snows were unusually heavy. Very early in the morning, a low fog had covered the fields.
At Old River a couple of days ago, near the new structure, Nettles and LeRoy Dugas were looking over a scene full of cargo barges, labor barges, crawling bulldozers, hundreds of yards of articulated concrete mattress revetments recently sunk into place, and millions of tons of new limestone riprap. It was like a fountain that sprayed 2,000 oF lava. A model of that size was modest for the Corps. Even at this time of modest normal flow, we looked down into a rage of water. What was directly below the gates and the roadway? In the South came a season of exceptional rains. In human terms, a generation passed with no disastrous floods.