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A Coast for All Seasons: A Naturalist's Guide to the Coast of South Carolina

William J. Neal

Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, U.S.A
A Coast for All Seasons: A Naturalist's Guide to the Coast of South Carolina. Miles O. Hayes, Jacqueline Michel. 2008. Published by Pandion Books, Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.A. 285 pp. 165 color plates.  ISBN 978-0-9816618-0-3.

Available from Amazon

Here is a book for all seasons, and for a cosmopolitan audience ranging from naturalists, as the title implies, to students who will find a summation of much of the authors' life-work, to coastal experts who will find this a straightforward summary of much of what is known about the science of the coastal zone, to just a good read while visiting any beach! Miles Hayes outlines his professional career in the preface; over four decades of work as background to this summary of the natural setting of the South Carolina coast, and likewise the experience of Jacqui Michel, an international expert on coastal zone vulnerability to oil spills. In a clear introduction the authors state their goal, and outline the organization of the book, dividing the South Carolina coast into four provinces or compartments: the Grand Strand, the Santee/Pee Dee Delta, the Barrier Islands, and the Low Country. Section I, chapters 2 through 10, is a primer ranging from the broad geologic origin of the southeast U. S. coast, its comparison to other coasts of the world, coastal processes, landforms, beach erosion, estuarine and back-barrier habitats, river systems, the continental shelf, and a short summary of potential recreational opportunities in keeping with the nature guide theme. The section is written in the style of a textbook, including bolding of every term introduced, and, while focusing on South Carolina, can stand alone as an introduction to coastal geology and oceanography. Much of the presentation will be familiar to expert readers because the work of Miles Hayes and his many students has resulted in the diagrams with which we are already familiar (e.g., micro–meso–macro tidal plus wave or tidal control of barrier islands, the drumstick barrier island model, ebb-tidal delta models, etc.), but here they are in one place along with photos and satellite images. This section makes up about 60% of the book.

Section II is the naturalist's guide, with a chapter on each of the four coastal compartments noted previously, plus a short discussion of rivers and swamps (chapters 11 through 15). These chapters are the guides as implied in the title, and have discussions of places to visit, directions as to how to get there, and related histories. The information should be of interest to a wide audience including birders, boaters, fishers, shell collectors, beach aficionados, and history buffs. At the same time, science concepts specific to each of the areas are introduced, as well as short discussions of a variety of topics from coastal controversies such as the “Great Nourishment Debate” for the Grand Strand or the relocation of Captain Sams Inlet in 1983, to local histories of human impacts on the coast (e.g., the impact of the nineteenth century construction of the Charleston jetties on adjacent barrier islands), to fascinating facts (e.g., asides on horseshoe crabs, the American alligator, the development history of Hilton Head Island, plantation houses, coastal vegetation). Here the writing style is more conversational, sometimes humorous and entertaining, reflecting the authors' love of the coast. Only the short concluding chapter on the future of the barrier islands carries a gloomy message.

The authors could have written this summation without doing journal-like documentation, but former students and other investigators are credited throughout for their work and contributions to this ultimate better understanding of the South Carolina coast. The senior author personalizes the narrative by referring to his past research experiences for particular locales. In fact, those of us who read these works when first published will find this work a good summary of part of what was going on in coastal geology since the mid-1960s.

The book is illustration-rich with high-quality color photos, lots of low-oblique aerial photos, satellite images, and line drawings. Anyone teaching courses that have anything to do with coastal processes or coastal-zone geomorphology will want a copy just to rob illustrations for classroom use! In 1977, this reviewer obtained a copy of “Terrigenous Clastic Depositional Environments,” edited by Miles O. Hayes and Timothy W. Kana (1976, Coastal Research Division, University of South Carolina, Technical Report 11-CRD). The book was not a slick, textbook, but it was a standard shelf reference for coastal geology and sedimentology while waiting for the authors to produce something as good in the form of an official textbook. “A Coast for All Seasons” may be as close as we get, and although Tim Kana is not a coauthor, you will find that he had considerable input into this work.

Every citizen of South Carolina should read this book to appreciate the natural heritage of their coast. Some lay readers may find it too technical, but the illustrations make up for the extensive jargon of necessary terms. Coastal scientists and engineers will find this a good companion reader for planning field trips to southeastern U.S. shores, or for that busman's holiday at the beach.

Available at Amazon

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