The Peripatetic Reviewer
THE Fisheries Center at the University of Washington is a modern brick laboratory on the lower slope of the campus, a stone’s throw from the not overly clean waters of Portage Bay. Here in the moist, fishy atmosphere dear to every angler, Professor Lauren R. Donaldson and his student teams have been carrying on experiments in the breeding of pedigreed Chinook salmon and rainbow trout, experiments which could have a revitalizing effect on rivers everywhere in our northern clime.
For nearly thirty years, Dr. Donaldson has been giving thought to the development of “super salmon” by selective breeding, and when the present center was established in 1950 he had a school of what he believed would be particularly hardy fingerlings ready to release from the laboratory pools. A fish ladder with eight steps led from these pools into Portage Bay, and down went the fingerlings, through the Bay, through Lake Union, through the locks of a government canal, through Puget Sound, and out into the Pacific. Normally about one tenth of one per cent of naturally bred salmon return to their spawning grounds in a matter of four years. The question involved in “Donaldson’s folly,” as campus critics called it, was how many — if any — of the marked fingerlings would return, and when.
It must have been a tense moment when, in 1952, the first homing Chinook swirled and began his leaping, slithering ascent up the ladder with its foot-wide openings. “We waited and waited,” said the doctor. “Finally, they started coming in. They were just like little runts, but they had our brand on them, and I could have kissed each one of them.” Not so little, either, for they averaged eighteen pounds, a growth they had attained in just under three years.
Forty-two came back from that first trial; 48 in 1955; last year, 880. Were this to continue unchecked, the university would be overrun with salmon, for this is a fish story to put Pigs Is Pigs, Ellis Parker Butler’s classic, in the shade. What Dr. Donaldson and his teams are now doing is stripping the eggs from the returnees and again, after selective breeding and feeding, keeping the hardiest for brood stock and releasing the excess fingerlings to fish farms outside of Seattle, whose waters flow into the Pacific. A quarter million select fingerlings will go out to sea this spring and will produce some ten million pedigreed eggs, which will be available for state hatcheries and fish farms. Studies thus far indicate a rate of 60 per cent survival in the fish farms, with at least 10 per cent survival in the deep sea. If six million of these selected fingerlings can be released, that will mean a return of 600,000 Chinooks for sports and commercial fishermen — and propagation. A decade of testing has shown that thirty times as many college-bred salmon return home to spawn as noncollegiate.
What about their diet? The main laboratory, whose doors open on to the college pools, encloses two rows of large tanks, each cared for by a pair of students in their rubber aprons and boots. The fingerlings were being measured for growth at the time of my visit, and eager, observant faces American, Filipino, Thai, and Japanese— were studying the thin glass tubes through which the silver streaks were being poured. Dr. Donaldson is an authority on radiation biology, and his research on the results of the nuclear explosions in the Pacific has taught him that certain minerals, such as iodine, zinc, cobalt iron, and manganese, contribute to a fish’s growth. His experiments are calculated to make up the deficiencies in such minerals in lakes and streams now being tested for new fish populations.
The fish pens next to the college salmon pools are reserved for the nontravclers, the homebred rainbow trout. I looked down on their broad black backs and shivered, for I had never seen rainbows so big. “Lord, what do those giants weigh?" I asked.
“Oh, ten or eleven pounds,” the doctor replied. “We’ll net one for you.” And when we returned to the laboratory, there he was, Big Sulky, in a tank by himself, levitating, puffing in his anger at having been separated, the red flush big as a rose beneath his eye and the exquisite rainbow coloringall along his broad beam. “Eleven pounds,” said the doctor, “and he’s just two years old.”
“What’ll you do with him?”
“After using them for brood stock, we release these trout in some of the nearby lakes,” he said. “I generally know where they’ve been put, and sometimes at dusk I drive out and watch the fun. Pretty soon I’ll hear a man shout, ‘Brother, I’m into a biggy. Wow, watch him go!’ Great excitement for a minute and a half, then silence. . . . ‘Gee, he stripped me.’ ”
“I guess von were cheering for the fish,” I said.
THE VANISHING WILDERNESS
John Muir was one of the earliest and most public-spirited naturalists to contribute to the Atlantic. With his gray burro and a loaf of bread, he scouted and camped his way through the unspoiled wilderness of California in the 1860s and 1870s, marking those natural beauties, like the great stands of sequoias and the Yosemite, which he believed should be protected from commercial exploitation. He was the pioneer and founder of our national parks, and one of the legacies which he left to the American people was the Sierra Club, which he founded in 1892 and which is dedicated to saving the nation’s scenic resources.
Up until recently, most Americans took for granted the spiritual refreshment which they received when they could get away to their secret woods, stretch of beach, or mountain lake. Today we all know that such refuges are in jeopardy; they are being invaded by the bulldozer, the throughway, and the air strip. “Thank God they cannot cut down the clouds,”cried Thoreau as he saw the forests come down. This irreversible process, the result of our spreading population, means that we are more than ever dependent upon those greater sanctuaries, our national parks, and that we should add to them if we dare to be provident. For America without its wilderness will be a nation without spirit.
What we need is striking and constant reminders. and one comes to us this year in the form of a beautiful book, THIS IS THE AMERICAN EARTH by ANSEL ADAMS and NANCY NEWHALL (The Sierra Club, $15.00). These peerless photographs of the Sequoia National Park, of the Yosemite, of Refugio Beach, of the newborn fawn and the tern in flight, the pastures in Sonoma County, the Douglas firs and aspens of the Sierra Nevada are reminders of the living beauty we must preserve. And here too are other and starker pictures of what occurred as “we moved on West, again to fell, burn, plow, kill.”Here are the stony clearings with the stumps and the erosion, the log ponds, the burned forests, the dead cypresses to remind us of what American ruthlessness and apathy can do. These magnificent photographs and the supple. muscular text, a prose poem really, by Miss Newhall, are an alert which we must heed.
Charles Townsend Copeland, known to five generations of Harvard undergraduates as “Copey,” was an apostle of the creative side of literature. He read aloud magnificently, and the readings which he gave to the freshmen, to the college, and to the alumni who gathered annually at the Harvard Club in New York were occasions which never failed to call out the beauty and majesty of prose. His sought-for course in composition was an exacting, stimulating experience for young aspirants as talented as Walter Lippmann, Robert Benchley, John Reed, Robert E. Sherwood, Bernard DeVoto, John Dos Passos, Oliver La Farge, Garrett Mattingly, and Walter D. Edmonds, and his rooms in Hollis Hall were a sanctuary for the elect who on Wednesday nights sat crowded on the floor to hear him and his famous guests discourse. Such amenities ran counter to the Teutonic tradition of the English department, which under the direction of George Lyman Kittredge had made a fetish of the Ph.D., and Copeland was not promoted to a full professorship until long after his due.
COPEY OF HARVARD by J. DONALD ADAMS (Houghton Mifflin, $5.00) is a lively and appealing picture of Harvard College in the first quarter of this century and the fairest account I have ever read of a great English teacher in action. Copey was vain, hungry for adulation, egotistic, and could be cruel. His own writing was negligible, but as a critic he was keen and perceptive, and his method of compelling his students to read their work aloud to him and to write down his corrections on the margin unquestionably left its mark.
His more famous graduates paid their tribute to him at the time of his seventy-fifth anniversary, and unfortunately there is a fruity laudation in their remarks, even in DeVoto’s, which makes them less interesting than the gritty comments of those who, like T. S. Eliot and Van Wyck Brooks, did not relish his teaching. One of the most fascinating passages is that in which Mr. Adams quotes Eliot’s undergraduate paper on Rudyard Kipling interlarded with Copey’s comments, which must have made Eliot squirm. The biographer is right in saying that Copeland was at his best in his judgment of prose — his analyses of William D. Howells, Matthew Arnold, and George Meredith are crisp and to the point — and Mr. Adams is correct in saying that few poets flourished in English 12. Copey could be swiftly discerning, as when he told Kaltenborn that His future lay not in the written but in the spoken word, and when he showed concern for Arthur Stanwood Pier, a student who had declined his invitations but in whom he saw a literary facility not to be denied. The book ends with those loyal friendships with Charlie Dunbar, Walter Edmonds, and Dave McCord which sustained the old gentleman in his eighties.
From Italy comes a historic novel as rich and fragrant as a fruitcake, THE LEOPARD by GIUSEPPE DI LAMPEDUSA (Pantheon, $4.50) enjoyed an enormous popularity in Europe, and now it is proffered to us in an excellent English translation by Archibald Colquhoun. The author, a Sicilian aristocrat, died four months after finishing the final draft, so this is his one and only book.
The Leopard opens in May of 1860, when the kingdom of the Two Sicilies is about to be invaded and taken apart by revolutionary forces under Garibaldi, and the story follows the endeavors of Fabrizio Corbera, the giant but indolent Prince of Salina, to make his peace with the new regime and to hold on to as much of his dwindling estate as his charm and guile will permit. The Prince’s crest is dominated by a leopard, but there is little of such ferocity in his make-up. He is a likable mass of contradiction: he has a propensity for astronomy and abstract ideas, yet a craving for the flesh; a delight in good foods and wine, yet a haughtiness which freezes the plebeian; a love of prestige which is always at odds with his shrewd sense of reality. The Prince’s protector in the Risorgimento is his handsome, penniless nephew, Taneredi, a born opportunist who has an easy way with women, soldiers, and politicians. The story revolves about the fate of these two, the one so characteristic of the ancient regime and the other so adept in the new. The family scenes, the delicious food, the decrepitude of the palaces, the irony of the Prince’s shooting when each of His innocent targets presents himself as the person the Prince most resents, the nouveau riche mayor, the counterpoint of duty and infidelity, and the ever-recurring pleasure of amour reawakened — these are facets of a rococo and highly colored story of whose authenticity one can have little doubt.