(Subscribe to Longreads
to receive this and other weekly exclusives.) A look at the giant sturgeon in the Pacific Northwest—one, named Herman, weighs nearly 500 pounds—and about our relationship with them. Doyle is editor of Portland Magazine
and writes frequently for Orion
's print edition and blog. His piece won the John Burroughs Award and was listed as "Notable" by both Best Science and Nature Writing 2012
and Best American Essays 2012
"There are fish in the rivers of Cascadia that are bigger and heavier than the biggest bears. To haul these fish out of the Columbia River, men once used horses and oxen. These creatures are so enormous and so protected by bony armor that no one picks on them, so they grow to be more than a hundred years old, maybe two hundred years old; no one knows. Sometimes in winter they gather in immense roiling balls in the river, maybe for heat, maybe for town meetings, maybe for wild sex; no one knows. A ball of more than sixty thousand of them recently rolled up against the bottom of a dam in the Columbia, causing a nervous United States Army Corps of Engineers to send a small submarine down to check on the dam. They eat fish, clams, rocks, fishing reels, shoes, snails, beer bottles, lamprey, eggs, insects, fishing lures, cannonballs, cats, ducks, crabs, basketballs, squirrels, and many younger members of their species; essentially they eat whatever they want. People have fished for them using whole chickens as bait, with hooks the size of your hand."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2011
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3250 words)
Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird's heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird's heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird's heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas Voladoras, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 5, 2005
LENGTH: 4 minutes (1024 words)