In 1848, New England ships crossed the Bering Strait in pursuit of the bowhead whales that provided their income. In the years since, the activity of outsiders- from hunters, to government bureaucrats, to consumers of energy who never set foot in the region- has had a deep impact on the region, but the environment of Beringia has made the place itself an active participant in this process.
About a century and a half after New England whalers crossed the Bering Strait, Bathsheba Demuth graduated High School in Iowa and moved north of the Arctic Circle in the Yukon. She later earned a PhD in history, and is currently Assistant Professor of History at Brown University. In this episode, Bathsheba joins Ben for a conversation about her research, how her fascination with the arctic led her to dedicate much of her life to understanding Beringia, and the ways that an environmental perspective allows us to better understand our place in the world and that of others. Bathsheba’s new book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait was published by W.W. Norton & Co in 2019. It is a masterpiece.
This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.