293 pages, 10 b/w illustrations and b/w maps
Thousands of ravenous tiny shorebirds race along the water's edge of Delaware Bay, feasting on pin-sized horseshoe-crab eggs. Fueled by millions of eggs, the migrating red knots fly on. When they arrive at last in their arctic breeding grounds, they will have completed a near-miraculous 9,000-mile journey that began in Tierra del Fuego. Deborah Cramer followed these knots, whose numbers have declined by 75 percent, on their extraordinary odyssey from one end of the earth to the other-from an isolated beach at the tip of South America all the way to the icy tundra.
In her firsthand account, she explores how diminishing a single stopover can compromise the birds' entire journey, and how the loss of horseshoe crabs-ancient animals that come ashore but once a year-threatens not only the survival of red knots but also human well-being: the unparalleled ability of horseshoe-crab blood to detect harmful bacteria in vaccines, medical devices, and intravenous drugs safeguards human health. Cramer offers unique insight into how, on an increasingly fragile and congested shore, the lives of red knots, horseshoe crabs, and humans are intertwined. She eloquently portrays the tenacity of small birds and the courage of many people who, bird by bird and beach by beach, keep red knots flying.
"[...] Having witnessed first-hand the spectacle of migrating Red Knot feeding on the bright green eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs in Mispillion Harbour, Delaware Bay, it would be difficult not to deservedly recommend this brilliantly written book that will appeal to fans of nature writing and detective novels alike, for The Narrow Edge reads as both."
– Justin Walker, BTO book reviews
"A scientific page-turner, full of intricacies and astonishment. Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, The Narrow Edge is a must for anyone interested in the natural world, our relationship to it, and our stewardship of it."
– Philadelphia Inquirer
"Deborah Cramer has crafted a remarkable tale of science, nature, and humanity. She takes us on a sweeping adventure as she paints the portrait of an unimaginably hardy yet threatened bird."
– Susan Solomon, author of The Coldest March
"The Narrow Edge is at once an intimate portrait of the small red knot and a much larger exploration of our wondrous, imperiled world."
– Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
"In the face of global warming, is our big brain connected to a big enough heart that we might do something to preserve the beauty of the earth? Heart is no problem for the red knot – 20,000 miles on the wing demonstrates that. The finely told story of this bird will, hopefully, help summon greater affection for our home planet."
– Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
"This book is for anyone who loves adventure: an interwoven tale of humanity and nature in which nature never fails to surprise and delight."
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, and National Geographic Conservation Fellow
"A plaintive cry from deep within, an elegy to epic lives lived at full burn, and a warning of the great unraveling that humans are inflicting on this planet's co-voyagers. A book so multidimensional, yet somehow so admirably succinct, I wish I'd written it – but it's written as only Deborah Cramer could. Thank goodness for that."
– Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
"Cramer's pole-to-pole pursuit of an elusive and threatened bird provides the vehicle for her eloquent exploration of our relationship to nature. The message is both sobering and inspirational."
– Nancy Knowlton, author of Citizens of the Sea
"Perhaps the red knot should replace the canary in the mine as the harbinger of impending changes that are good for neither birds nor people. Essential reading for anyone interested in conservation."
– Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky
"The long journey of a tiny bird is powered by the energy-rich eggs of horseshoe crabs, ancient creatures of sea and coast whose blood plays a critical but little-known role protecting human health. Cramer brilliantly presents us with an ecosystem of many parts."
– Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus, Stanford University
"[Cramer] writes [...] 'By the end of this journey I am more in awe than when I began.' Follow her graceful writing for the full 9,500 miles and you will share in that awe."
– Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
"Deborah Cramer provides a unique, first-hand account of a little known and even less appreciated bird. Her adventures with researchers easily take the reader into the world of science and its complex and evolving findings."
– John Marzluff, co-author of Gifts of the Crow and author of Welcome to Subirdia
"An eloquent interweaving of history, field practice and keen personal observation."
"Her writing is vivid, novelistic [...] The resulting book is everything a natural history should be."
– Living Bird
"The Narrow Edge is not just another lament for a world wrecked by human shortsightedness, though. It is, first and foremost, a deeply moving declaration of love for one particular bird, a love for which the author will spare no effort [...] When Cramer pays tribute to the people who give a voice to the birds and crabs that cannot speak for themselves, her book soars. "
– Christopher Irmscher, Weekly Standard
"The Narrow Edge is superb, beautifully as well as convincingly done. Comparison with Silent Spring is quite appropriate."
– William Conway, Wildlife Conservation Society
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Deborah Cramer is the author of Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage and Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World. She lives with her family on a salt marsh in Gloucester, MA.