Over a century ago, treachery in Alaska's Bering Sea twice brought the world to the brink of war. The US seized Canadian vessels, Great Britain positioned warships to strike the US, and Americans killed Japanese pirates on US soil – all because of the northern fur seals crowded together on the tiny Pribilof Islands.
The herd's population plummeted from 4.7 million to 940,000 in the span of eight years while notorious seafarers like Alex MacLean (who inspired Jack London's The Sea-Wolf) poached indiscriminately. Enter an unlikely crusader to defend the seals: self-taught artist and naturalist Henry Wood Elliott, whose zeal and love for the animals inspired him to go against all odds and take on titans of the sea.
Winning seemed impossible, and yet Elliott managed to expose corruption and set the course for modern wildlife protections that are all the more relevant today as the world grapples with mass extinction.
Carefully written and researched, Roar of the Sea reveals the incredible hidden history of how one lone activist existing in the margins prevailed against national governments and corporate interests in the name of wildlife conservation.
Deb Vanasse is an author of novels, nonfiction books, and children’s books, as well as a reporter, historian, and the co-founder of the Alaska statewide writing centre 49 Writers. Deb’s writing has been published in Alaska Magazine, and she has been interviewed by the Globe and Mail and CBC radio. She has given lectures for the National Park Service and several museums among other programs. For several years Deb lived in the Alaskan bush, and she has spent time on the Pribilof Islands. She currently lives in Oregon.
"In Roar of the Sea, [Deb Vanasse] writes with verve and dramatic impact, reconstructing the narrative of Elliott's tenacious crusade in a way that will transport the reader back to the cacophonous seal rookeries, to the bloody, blubber-slicked decks of the sealing ships, and to the elegant meeting rooms of the nation's capital. While bringing deserved attention to Elliott for his wildlife conservation work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Vanasse ends with a sobering challenge: those seal rookeries on the Pribilof Islands are now facing new human-caused threats – and could use 21st century advocates."
– The Daily Astorian/Coast Weekend
"Now comes a fascinating, full history of the fur seal story, pitting artist and advocate Henry Wood Elliott against the most famous of the seal pirates, a man named Alex MacLean, and a whole host of ill-informed and corrupt business and political titans. Deb Vanasse, a former Alaskan who now lives in Oregon and is the author of many previous books – including Wealth Woman, about the Klondike gold rush – has done extensive research to illuminate the historical characters, the difficulties of reaching an international agreement to protect wildlife, and the significance of that treaty today."
– Anchorage Daily News
"Roar of the Sea vividly recreates one of the earliest battles between commerce and conservation: the struggle over the fate of the Pribilof Islands fur seals, once considered 'America's most valuable wildlife.' In this engrossing and timely book, Deb Vanasse shows how ego, ambition, and misinformation can collide with good science to the detriment of all – a lesson the world apparently still needs to learn."
– Gary Krist, author of The Mirage Factory and Empire of Sin
"Deftly told, Roar of the Sea is a tale of both historical importance and contemporary urgency. More than a hundred years ago in the remote Bering Sea, fur seals lurched toward extinction amidst an international culture of greed, piracy, and unconscionable brutality. Their only hope was a fiery naturalist who dared to stand up against the powers of his time. From the remarkable facts of life on a pair of far-flung islands to the perils of taking too much, this book teaches and transports, offering a poignant story of resistance that resonates today."
– Caroline Van Hemert, biologist and author of The Sun is a Compass
"The men who backed wholesale slaughter, the policy makers who argued that killing seals was the only way to save them, a sailing outlaw, and a naturalist whose self-sacrifice and persistence prevented an unnecessary extinction – it's all part of Deb Vanasse's wonderful Roar of the Sea, a detailed history important to all of us who love Alaska and the sea, who believe in conservation, and who look to the past to better understand the complexities of our modern world."
– Bill Streever, biologist and best-selling author of Cold and In Oceans Deep
"Roar of the Sea is a full-sail ride – brightly written and meticulously researched – about pirates, plunder, and a self-taught naturalist who challenged the onslaught to save a species of seals on a remote pair of islands in a distant sea. The world is made better by inspiring stories like this. Bravo, Deb Vanasse."
– Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak and Jimmy Bluefeather
"With dashing antiheroes, swashbuckling pirates, and adventures at sea, this vivid book is a rarity – an important piece of nonfiction chronicling a treacherous bit of history that reads like a keep-you-up-all-night page-turner. Vanasse is a gem."
– C.B. Bernard, author of Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now