Alaskan author Bill Streever likes to tackle big topics in his writing. His best selling book Cold, covers everything from avalanches to expeditions into the world’s most frigid places. His next book, Heat was a similar examination of the science and stories of the world’s hottest places. His newest work seems like the biggest challenge yet, a fascinating focus on moving air. Streever’s -And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind- is a look at the natural history of wind through science, stories and his own narrative as he and his wife sailed the Gulf of Mexico. He spoke recently with APRN’s Lori Townsend, explaining that his story goes well beyond merely exploring the phenomenon of how air is propelled into motion.
STREEVER: It’s history, it’s nature. It’s economics, it’s forecasting. And it’s also the wind itself.
TOWNSEND: The forecasting element of it, the first actual weather forecasting was in the 1800’s.
STREEVER: The second half of the 1800’s, in fact I think ti was around 1854… one of the members of the House of Commons in London stood up and kinda had this idea that we shuld be able to forecast the weather or foretell tomorrow’s weather today. And the response of the House of Commons was laughter. He was laughed out of his position so to speak.
TOWNSEND: The actual forecast that was put in the London Times was about wind… that was the forecast. It really wasn’t anything about temperatures or anything. It was about wind. Why… how long did that last? Forecasting focused on wind? And why was that such a focus immediately?
STREEVER: Well the original forecast, and I believe it was only four lines long, and each line started with something about the wind in a particular location, and that day they were forecasting ended with the word fine, so it was it the U.K. and they must’ve had one of those unusually fine summer days, or something going on that said “fine fine fine fine fine” But they did start with the wind and back then the maritime trades were much more obvious than they are today. So even today shipping accounts, most things that you own, they’ve been shipped from someone to somewhere. They’ve moved across the planet aboard a ship. Well back in the 1800’s, all those ships were propelled by sails and the manpower on those ships, and it was mostly men so manpower is the right word, the man power on those ships was tremendous. So everybody knew someone. Everybody had family members who were at sea. The wind was very, very important.
TOWNSEND: What would you say your goal was when you decided to undertake this work? What did you want to accomplish in it?
STREEVER: That’s a good question. And I think in all three of my books, if I’m honest, the answer is a very selfish answer. I wanted to learn something. And I love learning and as I learn things, I think, “Well I would like to share this with people. This is exciting to me.” And then that becomes a book. It becomes Cold, it becomes Heat, and in this case, Roaring Wind. As I think about that, I think of history of literature and I think of books that are sailing narratives. There used to be a tradition of sailing narratives and there’s a tradition of salvation narratives and there’s a tradition of wilderness narratives where people are telling of their experiences in these different things and I begin to think of my books as learning narratives. So I’m out there learning both experientially and by trying to understand scientific literature and historical literature and even economic literature. And I start to develop a learing narrative and that’s what my books are.
TOWNSEND: And what do you hope that people take away from reading this book?
STREEVER: Well, I can tell you what I took away from writing this book, and what I hope people take away from reading it, is seeing wind in a whole new way. So walking out your door and looking up at the sky, maybe on your way if you’re commuting to work, looking up at the sky and thinking “What’s the wind doing today and why is it doing that, what might that mean?” And, I do that, and I think I finished writing this book abut 7 months ago and of course the publication process takes quite a while. But I still do that everyday. Whether I’m on my boat or here in Anchorage.
Alaskan author Bill Streever’s new book, And Soon I Heard A Roaring Wind, is available now. Here at Amazon