Author Biography: Myron Arms
A high-school teacher during the tumultuous years of the 1960s and early 1970s, Myron (“Mike”) Arms abandoned the formal classroom in 1977 in favor of a different kind of educational setting: a 60-foot traditional wooden schooner called Dawn Treader. As founder and director of a program of “sea learning” experiences and as a Coast Guard licensed Ocean Master, he sailed for the next five years with hundreds of teenage boys and girls. “The curriculum was life,” says Arms of his program. “The teacher was the sea. I learned as much as my students. We measured the sea’s chemistry, sampled its bottom sediments, studied its microscopic populations with a plankton net and microscope. It was the beginning, really, of my own emerging awareness of the stresses being suffered by virtually all of the world’s marine environments.”
Several years later, while sailing with a group of young adults in eastern Canada aboard his new 50-foot bluewater cutter Brendan’s Isle, Arms found himself confronted yet again by a series of disquieting signs of environmental stress—disappearing species, collapsing fisheries, changing patterns of climate. After a particularly dramatic encounter with a barrier of late summer sea ice during a voyage to Labrador in 1991, he became intrigued with questions of why the ice had persisted in such vast quantity along this coast in a year when much of the rest of North America was suffering from a debilitating heat wave and scientists were warning of the onset of global warming. Three years and hundreds of research-hours later, he set sail to the north again, this time by way of western Greenland. Unlike earlier voyages, this one was specifically designed to serve as the narrative setting for a book, Riddle of the Ice, and to dramatize an emerging climate story about the polar sea ice that scientists were just beginning to understand.
“It’s funny how things go,” Arms wrote after his return from Greenland. “Sailing, for me, used to be a hobby. Then it became a vocation. Then an obsession. Then a metaphor: a window on the world. What began as a series of casual summer cruises has evolved into a means of making contact with the planet we live on and with the severe stressing of planetary systems caused by our collective human activity.”
A voyage to Newfoundland took place as planned during the summer of 1998, and Arms returned home with a ship’s log containing hundreds of pages of notes and anecdotes. These, along with dozens of hours of tape-recorded interviews with Newfoundlanders from every walk of life, have provided the basis for a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always heart-rending story of a people who are both the perpetrators and the victims of one of the greatest ecological disasters of our time. Nearly six years in the writing, Servants of the Fish is now available for sale on this Web site as well as in major bookstores and online booksellers across the U.S. and Canada. In addition, readers may also keep abreast of Arms’s other thoughts and sailing adventures by means of a steady diet of feature magazine articles as well as by a book of essays, Cathedral of the World, published in hardback by Doubleday in early 1999, then released in paperback in the spring of 2000.
Arms’s newest book, True North: Journeys into the Great Northern Ocean, is also a compilation of essays that span his sailing career. (See the descriptions immediately below.) “My hope,” says Arms, “is that these books may become a means, not only for sharing the experience of sailing to remote and exotic coasts but also for raising readers’ consciousness about some of the troubling changes taking place there.”
Excerpts from Reviews and Commentaries, True North
“Veteran sailor Arms (Servants of the Fish) writes a notable collection of essays of the sea and sailing in the far reaches of the Great Northern Ocean, braving the frigid waters and dodging the dangerous ice fields. His trusty boat, Brendan’s Isle, and his sturdy crew, which includes his youngest son, Steve, move through these cold crossings with few perilous incidents , maintaining watch and the standard sea responsibilities. Arms’s narrative is rich, descriptive, almost poetic, and full of voyaging on the water as he journeys along the fiords of northern Labrador to western Greenland and among the fishing villages of the Faroe Isles. Much more than a slight travelogue, the book hits its stride when Arms cautions against “expanding human waste, changing atmosphere chemistry, disappearing species, rising sea surface temperatures, thinning sea ice, and melting glaciers.”
“Milk Sea” is a good example. About midway through the book, Brendan’s Isle encounters a strange phenomenon about four hundred miles south of Reykjavik, Iceland. Arms quotes from the ship’s log, “…the familiar gray-green color of the ocean surface has been transformed. Now everywhere we look the water has taken on a bright turquoise color, as if we were sailing over a shallow bank of sand,” adding detail in the book. “The brilliant turquoise color seemed to glow with an interior light. The breaking white crests spilled down the faces of following seas like whipped cream.”
“The phenomenon remained a mystery until ten years later when Arms was reading about data being gathered by early Earth-observing satellites. He tracks down one of the researchers and describes the “bloom.” The rest of the essay explains the mystery and examines potential consequences. But you’ll have to read the essay to find the answer and, and in the bargain, treat yourself to the pleasure of the author’s elegance of thought and phrase. The good news is that are three more Arms books to be enlightened by and enjoyed in the process. ”
Excerpts from Reviews and Commentaries, Servants of the Fish
“A simple, straightforward cautionary tale that foresees the distinct possibility of another fall from environmental grace.”
“In this book, author Myron Arms offers compelling insights into why the fisheries collapsed and, above all, presents a sympathetic chronicle of what it did to outport people. He warns that Newfoundland is an example of impending environmental and ecological disasters, like the depletion of the tropical rain forests, dying coral reefs, falling water tables, and shrinking ice caps, all of which ultimately threaten humanity and the world itself . . . . Arms has presented a provocative insight into the fisheries collapse and its effect on the province. Sometimes it takes an outsider to put it into perspective and this author has done that very well.”
“[T]he tales Arms tells are straightforward and accessible. Servants is a combination of reportage, history, memoir and philosophical musing.”
“. . . Arms circumnavigated Newfoundland aboard his 50-foot cutter, Brendan’s Isle, and from that voyage he’s crafted a wide-ranging story about what can rightfully be called one of the great ecological disasters of our time. What makes this book so accessible and readable, however, is the human touch Arms brings to his solid reporting on the science and history of the Newfoundland fishing industry. Servants of the Fish, ultimately, is a cautionary tale, one in which every sailor has a vested stake.”
“The book . . . is well-researched and outlines the environmental science, politics, economics, and sociology of the cod fishery—and what happens when humans upset the balance of nature. . . . As sailors, we can’t help but be aware of our ocean environment. [The author] asks us to think about and consider this finely-tuned balance, and how we might act as a result.”
“The characters in Arms’ tale are convincing, the prose is powerful, the science is accurate and timely, and the message is one that no concerned citizen of our planet can ignore.”
“In this compelling portrait of the fishermen of Newfoundland, sailor and environmentalist Myron Arms documents the human side of an ecological catastrophe. On one level it is the tale of a gritty and resilient people, the hauntingly beautiful place they live, and the fishery they helped to destroy. On a more universal level, it becomes a kind of environmental morality play—a voyage to Everyland, an encounter with Everyman, and an urgent call for what the author terms ‘a different kind of caring’ for the Earth.”
“Servants Of The Fish: A Portrait of Newfoundland after the Great Cod Collapse is an engrossing social history of the individual people and of society as a whole in the wake of the threat of northern cod extinction along the fishing banks of eastern North America. Narrated in brisk, straightforward prose, it tells of those who dedicated their lives to fishing, and who were both precipitators and victims of the ecological catastrophe. A plain-terms narration, equally accessible to the lay reader and the concerned ecologist or environmentalist alike.”
“Servants Of The Fish: A Portrait of Newfoundland after the Great Cod Collapse isn’t just a pick for Canadians or New Englanders. It warns that Newfoundland is a microcosm of impending environmental disasters around the world – and its probe of why and how the fishery industry collapsed in the region thus holds plenty of implications far beyond Newfoundland’s borders.”
“Lucid, stimulating, and deeply movingan important achievement.”
“Servants of the Fish accomplishes what nonfiction writing seldom does: It conveys an important story with all the intensity and immediacy of a good novel.”
More information and how to contact Myron Arms
More information about Myron Arms can be found on his Web site, www.myronarms.com To arrange an interview or to help track down Myron Arms for expert information and advice for a news or feature article, contact Steve Carlson at Upper Access Books. Call 1-800-310-8320 or 802-482-2988, or e-mail Steve (at) UpperAccess.Com. To reach Myron Arms directly by e-mail, use firstname.lastname@example.org.