The quest to control hurricanes.
A flight attendant's love affair.
"Only now, in filling up the legal yellow pads with her memories of Will bent over his maps and her black panties drying on the towel rack and those broken glasses and the plane roar that wakes her up at night, does he seem more lost then her. She wasn’t a bird, not a bit like one. Birds were sharp, had metal in their brains which told north and south apart."
It’s legal to buy poppy seeds in America and it’s legal to plant them—unless you’re familiar with the simple process of turning them into opium, that is. Then having poppies in your garden is a felony.
Four scientists begin exploring a sinister wilderness.
"We were on a dirt trail strewn with pebbles, dead leaves, and pine needles damp to the touch. Velvet ants and tiny emerald beetles crawled over them. The tall pines, with their scaly ridges of bark, rose on both sides, and the shadows of flying birds conjured lines between them. The air was so fresh it buffeted the lungs and we strained to breathe for a few seconds, mostly from surprise. Then, after marking our location with a piece of red cloth tied to a tree, we began to walk forward, into the unknown. If the psychologist somehow became incapacitated and could not lead us across at the end of our mission, we had been told to return to await 'extraction.' No one ever explained what form 'extraction' might take, but the implication was that our superiors could observe the extraction point from afar, even though it was inside the border."
A woman struggles in the wake of her infidelity.
"Sherry hadn’t known anyone at the party. It was outdoors in someone’s back yard. She had a lot to drink, and pretty soon people and trees were practically indistinguishable. The boy had talked to her. Everybody at the party went to a school different from hers. She wore an ecru smock with an apple embroidered on the pocket, and was very pleased with the way her hair looked. Until the boy started talking to her, she felt exceedingly awkward. They drove to a park in her car, where the only witnesses to the uncomfortable and meaningless sex were medlars and lindens and Japanese maples."
A narrator's strange daily life is fused with strange appearances from the natural world.
"Freezing, I sprang from bed and assembled, in darkness relieved only by a bluish gleam cast by the iceberg, sweaters, flannel pajama bottoms, my heaviest wool socks, and a down-filled coat suitable for an assault on Everest. For the iceberg that crowded my bedroom was no symbol of the world’s entropy or of a man’s estrangement from his kind, nor was it any longer a figment of the dreaming mind. (We don’t suffer cold in dreams, nor do we sneeze as I did twice while fumbling at my clothes.) Dressed, I drew aside the rime-stiffened curtain and gazed out on a flotilla of icebergs gliding solemnly down the flooded street. (To acknowledge, as you no doubt have, that I spawned one berg, a pack of them is easily granted.)"
A mental disorder in which the protagonist believes he is a tree.
"There are a lot of things though that one doesn’t experience as a tree. For example music. Maybe trees feel the vibrations, but I don’t remember anymore. When I was young my mom put me in piano lessons. I begged to go to them actually, but I was horrible. Before the lesson I used to have to sit and wait in the hallway of the music school and from the different rooms you could hear the different instruments being played badly, but from my position in the hallway, it sounded like they were all coming from the same room. A cello screeching as syncopation to an out of tune violin with a piano clank-clanking along. It was beautiful and what I enjoyed more than anything else. Music is one thing that I’ll miss, when I become a tree again."
Two artistic teenagers create art and mysteries in a cabin.
"When the sky was blue Andi hooked sheets over the windows. She cooked meat until it was black. While Shot slept she powdered his cheeks with fireplace ash. When they walked about the cabin they looked like subjects in pencil sketch flipbooks, skin brushed gray over a monochrome background. Sometimes Shot would track in mud or some paint would flake, and Andi would be there with a can to police the evidence."
“When I look at Mr. McCreery’s boat… I know that life is wild, dangerous, beautiful.”
Three vignettes taking place in far northern reaches.
"In the crystalline quiet where no one watches an iceberg calved with the shrieks and growls of any birth. A part of her shivered then rumbled then slipped, splashed into the ocean to announce an arrival with ripples of frigid blue waves."
Boys and girls showcase themselves on opposite sides of an anatomical river.
"It only takes a split second for all of my cells to light up with horror-shock, a split second before I start gagging. The river is full of thighs, pushing along like fish, huge as bass, moving downstream. The thighs bump up against each other, create awkward waves, a strange flood of lone limbs in water, it is a tide of skins."
A species of jellyfish that can transform itself back to a polyp at any time appears to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die.
In 1968, the author revisits remote British Columbia, which he traveled two years earlier.
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was extinct. Then it wasn’t. The story of an uncertain resurrection.
A profile of Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountain climber of all time.
Stalking bluefin tuna, the most valuable wild animal in the world.
How meteorologists are improving their predictive powers.
The day Hurricane Irene nearly drowned Prattsville, New York.
Father and son endure in a crab fishing village in the Pacific Northwest.
"One year I loved Robert Louis Stevenson, the next radio cars, and my father never caught up. Sometimes I wondered why he came home at all."
The search for a missing ultramarathoner in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness, and the life that lead him there.
Is creativity in our genes? A self-made scholar’s search for the answer.
A series of random and unsettling snapshots of two brothers.
"Michael’s brother is on the diving board again and then not, his body in the air and taking up so much space. He gets closer and closer and the water turns to glass. Michael feels like he’s dreaming. The water cracks and breaks and scatters. Michael’s brother is in pieces. He screams and Michael deep-breathes and Michael closes his eyes"
Residents of a small New Hampshire town deal with various problems and hardships.
"I unchained my bike and rode out through the center of Carlisle towards Jack’s house. A couple of times, I had told Wesley that I was done being a thief. It was like when Jack decided to stop drinking. Quitting’s easy, Jack told me, I’ve done it hundreds of times. I was scared at night, when I would hear cars pull up, and wonder if someone I had ripped off was after me."
An undercover cop infiltrates a group of British activists, befriending and then betraying them.
On spending six months on the southern coast of Argentina with the “Jane Goodall of penguins” and several hundred of her research subjects.
Scientists quarrel about the fate of animals living in the 1,600 square mile exclusion zone.
After two people are found dead in Yellowstone National Park, a team of investigators tracks down the unlikely culprit: a grizzly bear.
Ed Rosenthal recounts the six days he got lost in Joshua Tree National Park.
An imaginative, unpopular boy and a depressed older man face the dangers of winter.
"Something was wrong here. A person needed a coat. Even if the person was a grownup. The pond was frozen. The duck thermometer said ten. If the person was mental, all the more reason to come to his aid, as had not Jesus said, Blessed are those who help those who cannot help themselves, but are too mental, doddering, or have a disability?"
A chronicle of the 2010 wildfire that burned down 169 homes in Colorado, told via the people who lived through it.
Passengers and a tour bus driver share personal stories and local legends.
"Fraser Island is the world’s biggest sand island. It is made up entirely of sand. I like to say that a good island is just like a person: if you can understand its one main factor, you can understand the whole thing. The sand is what makes the island the way it is. It is all sand, blown together by the wind and taken here from the coast of New South Wales. That is why we have the trees we do, and why the beach and dirt are our roads. So you could say the island is the way it is because of sand from the wind."
The night when Terry Thompson let his zoo-worthy collection of big animals, including lions and a bear, into the wilds of Zanesville, Ohio before shooting himself in the head.
A thirteen-year-old adoptee born in Russia with fetal alcohol syndrome, his golden sheperd Chancer, and the trainer who taught Chancer to bond emotionally with disabled children.
The search for what makes identical twins different.
I first learned about cloud lovers in a police report concerning a man who received a blowjob from a young woman and went mad. The man — let's call him Carl (police reports have the names of suspects and victims redacted) — was in his 40s, and the woman, let's call her Lisa, was almost 18. The two first met in the fall of 2003 at a local TV station that was holding a contest to find the best video footage of Northwest clouds. According to the report, which was lost when I cleaned my messy desk in 2005 (I'm recalling all of this from an imperfect memory), Carl, who was married and well-to-do, fell in love with Lisa, whose family was not so well-off, upon seeing her for the first time. He had a videocassette in his hand; she had a videocassette in her hand. He showed his tape to the station's weatherman (sun, sky, clouds). She showed hers (clouds, sky, sun). During the contest, his eyes could not escape her beauty. After the contest, the impression she made on his mind intensified. That bewitching coin in the short story by Jorge Luis Borges, "The Zahir," comes to mind. If a person sees this coin only once, the memory of its image begins to more and more dominate his/her thoughts and dreams. Soon the coin becomes the mind's sole reality. Lisa's face was Carl's Zahir.
The case for why a cup of joe is about to become a luxury item.
Irving Kahn is about to celebrate his 106th birthday. He still goes to work every day. Scientists are studying him and several hundred other Ashkenazim to find out what keeps them going. And going. And going.
On the battles, both between humans and animals, in Africa’s overpopulated Albertine Rift.
A universal panic--the spontaneous combustion of women--highlights feminist questions and everyday living.
"The stories kept circulating: a mother of five, sitting on the sidelines of a Little League game, gone. A waitress in our favorite diner, who always remembered that we needed extra napkins, gone. A bank teller we said hello to when we deposited our checks, gone. Who could figure this out, we asked. Who was going to protect us?"
Retirement for chimps is, in its way, a perversely natural outcome, which is to say, one that only we, the most cranially endowed of the primates, could have possibly concocted. It's the final manifestation of the irrepressible and ultimately vain human impulse to bring inside the very walls that we erect against the wilderness its most inspiring representatives -- the chimps, our closest biological kin, the animal whose startling resemblance to us, both outward and inward, has long made it a ''can't miss'' for movies and Super Bowl commercials and a ''must have'' in our laboratories. Retirement homes are, in a sense, where we've been trying to get chimps all along: right next door.
Fourteen other tornadoes hit Georgia on April 27 and 28. This was not the record — that would be twenty, during Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994. But it was one of the worst twenty-four-hour periods in the history of the state. Tornadoes hit Trenton, Cherokee Valley, south of LaGrange, and Covington; killed seven people in a neighborhood in Catoosa County, swept through Ringgold, and killed two more — a disabled man and his caregiver — in a double-wide trailer on the far end of Spalding County. Those tornadoes got all the attention. The Vaughn tornado didn’t even warrant an article in a major newspaper. No one talked about Vaughn. The only way for a person to really find out about it was to drive past.
On Timothy Treadwell, who lived and died by the bears of Alaska.
The case against agriculture.
Bets are placed on the developments and historical events of the future universe.
"I got much more satisfaction, however, from the bets we had to bear in mind for billions and billions of years, without forgetting what we had bet on, and remembering the shorter-term bets at the same time, and the number (the era of whole numbers had begun, and this complicated matters a bit) of bets each of us had won, the sum of the stakes (my advantage kept growing; the Dean was up to his ears in debt). And in addition to all this I had to dream up new bets, further and further ahead in the chain of my deductions."
A quiet young woman's trip to the seashore yields a plethora of observations.
"Eventually her muscles warmed and Magritte felt slick and alive in the liquid sea. She turned over on her back, paddling lazily, and watched the movement of the clouds in the sky. The sea gurgled secretively in her ears."
A minimalist exchange set inside a volcano.
"There is nothing to do but drink beers and stare up into the black and so that is what we do. "
During the Great Floods of 2011, the Mississippi unleashed deadly currents and a flow rate that could fill the Superdome in less than a minute. Defying government orders, the author and two friends canoed 300 miles from Memphis to Vicksburg. This is their story.
The disappearance of a legendary scavenger could have dire consequences for a swelling human population.
A trip to the Cannabis Cup serves as a backdrop for the story of how the War on Drugs revolutionized the way marijuana is cultivated in America.
The discovery of 30,000-year old, perfectly preserved cave paintings in southern France offer a glimpse into a world that 21st-century humans can never hope to understand. The article that inspired Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
A study of the Mississippi River, its history, and efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold it in place.
How the tapping of Angola’s natural resources has kept the country a killing field, and made it one of the world’s most glaringly inefficient kleptocracies.
In 1962, Siffre spent two months living in total isolation in a subterranean cave, without access to clock, calendar, or sun. Sleeping and eating only when his body told him to, his goal was to discover how the natural rhythms of human life would be affected by living “beyond time.”
In the 1880’s, a shabbily dressed man popped up in numerous America cities, calling upon local scientists, showing letters of introduction claiming he was a noted geologist or paleontologist, discussing both fields at a staggeringly accomplished level, and then making off with valuable books or cash loans.
Daniel Kish is entirely sightless. So how can he ride a bike on busy streets? Go hiking for days alone? By using a technique borrowed from bats.
Twenty-five years later, inside the Exclusion Zone.
The search for the genetic distinction that allows certain animals, humans included, to be domesticated.
What happened when the founder of North Face and Esprit bought a chunk of Chile the size of a small state, intending to live with a select group inside it and turn it case study for ecological preservation. It turned out, however, that Chileans didn’t really like that idea.
The life story of Travis the chimp and the family of tow truck operators who raised him like a human child before it all ended in tragedy.
Nobody loved chimpanzees more than St. James Davis and his wife LaDonna; the couple spent more than 30 years—and gained a modicum of fame—raising one as their son. Then they almost died in a brutal chimp attack.
The enigmatic life and death of Bruno Zehnder, who obsessively photographed penguins in the ice fields outside of a Russian base in Antarctica.
What it takes to recover from a near-death brawl with a bear.
A (graphically) detailed account of a bear’s attack on a father and daughter hiking in Glacier National Park.
America, China, and the case for coal as a vital weapon in the war against climate change.
Why Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is wrong and “gayness is a necessary side effect of getting along.”
On the golden anniversary of her first trip to study chimps, an ode to Jane Goodall.
A writer struggles to understand, among other things, why humans do more for whooping cranes than for themselves.
A writer struggles to defend his arbor vitae trees from a pack of hungry deer—“an episode of great vexation and buffoonery.”
The author investigates the massive wildlife die-off in the Salton Sea by rafting from its tributaries in Mexico.
Fifteen years ago, William Dranginis saw Bigfoot. He’s still trying to prove it.
An obsessive marine biologist gambles his savings, family, and sanity on a quest to be the first to capture a live giant squid.
The battle to contain the Asian tiger mosquito–one suburban, above-ground pool at a time.
The complex, highly evolved world of Moscow’s subway-riding stray dogs.
In February, a killer whale named Tilikum dragged his SeaWorld trainer into the pool and drowned her. It was the third time the orca had been involved in a death during his 27 years in captivity. This is his story.
Will we deplete the worldwide Bluefin Tuna population beyond repair?
A mayday call in the critical moments after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.
A profile of the mysterious and moderately intelligent Giant Pacific Octopus.