The Strong Heart Series

Three books, stand-alone, one grand story….wilderness, adventure, coming of age, great animals, ancient legends….Scroll down for reviews and reactions….available everywhere books are sold….Available from Ingram Content Group

Set on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula and along the British Columbia coast, these tales follow an ornery young girl as she finds her power in an impossible way.

Strong Heart: One early summer Sarah Cooley, 14, orphaned, lands on the doorstep of a grandfather unaware he has a granddaughter, just as he and his friends are about to head into the wilderness. They decide to take her along to teach her a lesson. All too soon they discover she may be taking them….

Adrift: The following December, in the Gulf of Alaska, the container ship Seattle Express catches fire, forcing the crew to take to the lifeboats. One lifeboat crashes ashore against Haida Gwaii, remote islands in the Gulf of Alaska. A down and out salvage company races to seize the drifting ship. While the marooned sailors struggle to survive, relatives back on the Olympic Peninsula hatch a desperate rescue plan…..

Totem: That spring, Sarah and her companions want to return to Bear Valley in Olympic National Park before Buckhorn Corporation starts mining there, to see it one last time. At the same time, strange elk kills start appearing around the park and then deep in the interior. Sarah’s companions experience dreams or visions of an ancient past that somehow reflect their present reality just as impossible animals appear. Everything comes to a head in Bear Valley…..

Going both ways across the Land Bridge

Now it seems there is some evidence humans used the Bering Land Bridge to pass from the Americas back to Eurasia…..

Further evidence – ancient seafaring

Check out this article arguing that ancient humans reached some islands in the Mediterranean sea as long ago as 450,000 years, by boat, not on foot. If this is true, those humans were not modern homo sapiens but homo erectus, suggesting that hominids became capable sailors hundreds of thousands of years ago. If this is true (and I believe it is) then all theories about human migration need to fully explore the notion humans sailed the coast and among islands, out of sight of land, just as often, if not more often, than undertaking long journeys over land. This makes sense, if you think about it, because during these times there were many periods when great ice sheets covered the land, not to mention all the enormous meat eating predators who were, then, the apex predators – short face bear, dire wolf, cats…..

Summers end….

The thing about having a little blog is it must be fed. When the summer comes out here, and the skies brighten and the rain stops, the trails and forest beckon. There are trails to revisit, or visit the first time, or areas off trail asking for attention, distant lakes to discover and reach, remote forest roads leading nowhere beyond which lies….? Of course, when you reach a certain age, and I fear – no, I am certain – I have reached it, you need to prepare for such excursions. Train. Walk miles, find nearby trails and hills to conquer, load a pack and climb stairs, or just walk, and walk, and walk. In the perfect world someone who wanders the woods would walk two or three hours every single day, all year, and then they would be ready for anything at nearly any age, even a greatly advanced age. I met such a man this year and he is a mountain goat, nearly as old as I am, going everywhere, on and off trail, as he has all his life. I envy him but could not keep up with him. Maybe after a year of training, and absence of injuries…

But you can write your blog in the evenings, some would say. This is true. But, to me, a blog is a strange sort of beast. On the one hand it offers a place to store tales, and ideas, and pictures, maybe even a few words about books written or envisioned, and as such, seems, to me anyway, a perfect place to store such things, whether anyone else cares to see them or not. On the other hand, in today’s monetize everything, build a mailing list, increase traffic to promote sales fever, the blog becomes a beast, a thing to be fed, its appetite endless and huge. When fun stories rise, or events beckon, the blog is fun, a place to record things, but when the money and traffic and out-there self promotion animal springs to life the blog becomes a monster, something loathed and avoided.

Maybe, too, this is all a function of two years of covid reaction and then the start of a European land war with the attendant media hype, lies, and hysteria filling all the airwaves and screens.

Then the forest beckons, the high and lonely places, difficult to reach, painful to achieve, but then, on the way and when arrived, silent but for the sounds of the wind, streams, insects, and animals. These are places that are still, InReach Mini2 aside, out of wifi range, phone range, web range.

Thank God.

There is a story I have been playing with now for two years, ever since I finished Totem as a matter of fact, maybe even another series, set in the future, so you can call it science fiction if you like. Whatever time I have spent with a pen and paper, or a keyboard and a screen, has been jotting notes and doing research on matters related to things future, plus the difficult task of trying to imagine a near future that might be realistic, which in these days of plagues and crisis and rage is hard to do.

All of which to say, this feeble little blog has gone dormant for half a year, now. But it is not dead, mainly because I find this a nice way to store stuff that I enjoy.

That grounded big container ship

So, just about a year after the Ever Given went aground in the Suez Canal, blocking traffic for days and creating chaos in the supply chain, a sister ship, the Ever Forward, somehow missed a small turn in the channel in the Chesapeake Bay while departing Baltimore and grounded in mud.

These ships are huge. They are 1300 feet long, nearly 200 feet wide, weigh 140,000 tons, and draw at least 40 feet of water when even partially loaded. They are the largest container ships built. Why one of these monsters was going to Baltimore is a question in itself. Baltimore is way up the Bay, far from the ocean, a relatively small East Coast container port. I was posted on a Military Sealift Command ship in Baltimore in 2015 and could see the container cranes from the ship, so I know where the Forward must have berthed. I imagine, if this was the first visit to the Port, there was some kind of event hosted by the Port, a celebration, executives with smiles and flowers and the press, “Oh, look, we can handle these ships, aren’t we the best?”

Based on videos and reports it seems the ship was traveling between 8 and 9 knots coming down the channel, coming south. The channel swings to the right, to starboard, maybe 15 degrees, but the Ever Forward just kept going straight. In the channel the water depth is 50 feet, but outside the channel the depth is 30 feet rising to 24 feet to less than 20 feet. The ship is now well off the channel, in the mud, fully, bow to stern. The depth at the bow is only 17 feet. This means that the hull of the ship, which is at least 40 feet from the keel to the water surface, somehow plowed into the sediment for all 1300 feet. Now the ship sits in the mud, with, quite likely, half that 40-foot draft not in water but in the mud beneath the water.

This is, actually, hard to imagine happening, unless that sediment was very soupy indeed. If the ship drove into the mud, pushing it aside as it drove forward, the mud would have to be pushed aside as well, meaning, forming a hump next to the hull. A rough calculation suggests this 140,000 ton ship might have pushed aside over 100,000 cubic yards of mud.

When the ship was coming south, the ship had to be under the command and control of a Chesapeake Bay Pilot. When I was sailing we always -always – took aboard a pilot when entering a port, any port. The pilot gives the commands, engine speed, wheel commands. One would think the pilot gave a command to turn the ship as the channel turned, but only the voice recorder will tell the real story. It is however likely the pilot, whoever he or she was, had rarely if ever been operating a ship that size, that slow to heed rudder commands.

Anyway, the ship went hard aground and now sits in the mud. Two dredges are working to remove the sediment from around the ship, the largest using a clam bucket that can hold 65 cubic yards at a time. Rough math, again – if it takes 15 minutes to drop the bucket, close it, bring it up, swing it over a barge, drop the load, and return to the bottom, and if the bucket never stops operating, day and night, to remove 100,000 cubic yards will require 16 days of dredging. But of course the barge and bucket have to be moved and repositioned as the dredging happens, so maybe you need to double that time, or triple it.

Apparently, also, the ship on leaving Baltimore was not holding a lot of ballast water, which is usually taken on when well offshore, so during the run down the Bay the ship is configured to reduce draft in the channel, meaning, with the weight of containers on the deck the ship might be considered tender – that is, a little top heavy. The reports are explaining that as they dredge by the ship they need to be careful they don’t cause a shelf near the ship which might allow it to roll into the deepened water – ie, take on a great list, or even capsize.

These ships are as I said earlier huge, and the containers stacked on the deck (as well as in the hull itself) reach very very high. Maybe it makes sense to remove fuel from the ship to lighten it, though this will also increase her tenderness. Another thing to do is remove containers, reduce the high weight. But the trouble here is that there aren’t many cranes mounted on barges that are tall enough to lift off those containers, and they would need to be lifted one at a time, a tedious and slow process. In the worst case, it might take weeks and weeks to remove containers and complete the dredging before the ship can be pulled back into the channel.

Of course, if the ship plowed through sediment this suggests that the bottom of the ship might be damaged, compressed, crumpled, bent. There is no question the sailors on the ship are sounding the voids and tanks every hour to make sure there are no leaks. Maybe there are leaks. Nobody had as of March 23 placed a boom around the ship, but surely this will happen soon, for there is the danger of fuel leakage as well.

This is going to be very expensive. The daily cost for dredging barges, dredges, and tugs is in the tens of thousands of dollars a day. It will be a race between trying to get the ship free as soon as possible so it can continue on its rotation, and dredging and moving enough sediment so the ship can be moved safely, without tearing open the hull or unbalancing the ship such that it shifts, maybe even rolls. And as they do this work, of course, as they pull the ship toward the channel, they come closer to the other marine traffic now using the channel. At some point the channel will need to be closed to free the Ever Forward. The worst outcome of all would be partly freeing the ship but not totally, yet blocking the channel.

This incident is not stopping a major world trade route. There will be no supply chain interruptions, except for those customers whose containers and goods are now delayed on that ship. But this is another sign of what can happen when an enormous, highly complex, clumsy ship makes one small mistake.

We will see more such mistakes.

Some early Totem reviews

“I believe that this book is a fitting conclusion to a remarkable set of novels. I enjoyed them so much, I plan to order up each in paperback to have them sit on my bookshelf. As far as I’m concerned, the Strong Heart trilogy is the best Netflix series yet to be filmed. Seriously. As I read each of these books, all I could think of was watching the story come to life on TV. I hope that these novels get into the hands of a reputable producer and are adapted for the screen.

“What I liked most were the wonderful characters, each unique, each with their own strengths and weakness, each with their own speech patterns that help to establish their individuality. I also appreciate Mr. Sheldon”s commitment to the land and the environment, a theme that runs through the entire series, one that causes the reader to take pause and consider what is happening to the planet because of climate change…

“The weaving of the mystical with speculative history is fascinating; the visions help move the story and successfully set the stage for the exciting conclusion. My only regret is that the series has come to an end because I would certainly have liked to spend more time with these exceptional characters.” OnLineBookClub for Readers reviewer, Feb 12, 2022

“I’m only at the third chapter of the book and I already love it, I have read the previous two books of the series and cannot wait to see how this one turns out. Judging by this forum and its reviews, it is going to be excellent as well.” OnLineBookClub for Readers reviewer, Feb 8, 2022

“I loved the journey this book took me through. It wasn’t just the North Pacific, but it was a journey through a culture that surpassed time and place. It’ was a learning journey that can be applied today to anyone who loves the past and wants to connect past and future with one another. That writing style is what keeps readers coming back for more. The ability to not only tell a tale but make readers live within it is a blessing. GREAT series!” OnLineBookClub for Readers reviewer, Feb 3, 2022

Woke human origins?

Here below is an article about a new take on ancient humans and the eating of meat. Essentially it argues that the thesis that ancient humans shifted from plant-based foods to meat around two million years ago is not correct. This finding came not from any new evidence or studies, but from an analysis of already-found sites, their frequency, and basically a reinterpretation of the data. It seems as if the authors a building a case for a reinterpretation of humans as a killing, meat eating species.

This study, much reported of late, follows hard on the heels of a book that came out last year, The Dawn of Everything, by Graeber and Wengrow, claiming that the earliest large societies of humans were in many cases non hierarchical, lacking evidence of temples and other manifestations of class and power distinction. The book is massive, wonderfully written, and basically offers no proof for any of its conjectures, yet it is being lionized everywhere. It seems the authors are trying to argue we humans arose as a peaceful, pacific species. However, the book is admirable in confirming that indigenous peoples carried great wisdom and western industrial societies could learn much from them, and in the past have learned much from them.

It sounds like a thesis is emerging that the earliest humans were not meat eaters, primarily, and that, furthermore, human societies since the beginnings of time have chosen many forms and many of them, early on, were benign, classless, cooperative.

It is interesting that Darwin’s survival of the fittest emerged at almost exactly the same time that European nations were busy colonizing (and had been colonizing) vast swaths of the earth. One might even argue that this thesis was justifying colonial behavior, ie, if indigenous peoples could not resist invaders then this was OK because the “winners” were fitter.

There is other history whereby scientific theses were used to justify ideologically-driven points of view – for example “eugenics” being used to justify the sterilization of people considered retarded as happened in the first decades of the 20th century.

As human evolution theories expanded during the period, say, 1875 – 1960, greater numbers of ancient human-like (or human) types (or “species”) were named and discovered. Then it was found that homo erectus, the first really big brained hominid (mentioned in the attached article about meat eating) had expanded from Africa nearly 2 million years ago (coincident with the start of the ice ages) to spread all over Eurasia and Indonesia. A school of thought arose that held that the different “races” of humans arose each in their turn from erectus all over the world, with specific appearance traits like skin color, yet interbreeding enough so the difference were groups, not species, but after World War 2 this thesis lost favor to another, arguing that all modern humans arose from a single mother in Africa, “Lucy,” born about 200,000 years ago. The multiple origin thesis was declared racist, or feared would be used to support racist ideology, whereas the “Lucy” thesis held everyone was basically the same, and countered any racial tendencies. Today the multiple origin thesis is essentially banned from any discussion whatsoever.

In the years since, other hominid species have been found – Denisovian, Florensis – and genetic analysis had determined that these different types interbred with each other and with Neanderthal and with homo sapiens. It seems that hominids of many different types in the last several hundred thousand years interbred when they could. This means they were all one species.

Some might argue that science has been used as a support mechanism for ideology. Others might argue that scientific theories and social movements may be more interlinked than anyone wants to admit.

Now we seem to be entering a new era, call it “wokeness” with studies and books sifting through available data and coming up with entirely new conclusions which support the current ideological thrust of those who are trying to characterize us and our ancestors as peaceful, vegetarian, benign beings who have somehow gone entirely wrong since….agriculture? Industrialization?

As regards this meat eating study, which again is simply a reinterpretation of existing data, the authors seem to miss many salient points. One, apes and other primates are primarily plant eaters and have huge guts to process the fiber. Two, humans were able to control fire at about the same time brain size expanded and also when teeth became much smaller. Controlled fire allows for the cooking of food, the breaking down of the structure so it is easily digested. The use of fire, and cooking, required smaller teeth and meant that the energy needed to digest all those plants in earlier primates and maybe hominids could now be used to support a much expanded brain. It is all linked together.

My personal thesis is that the earliest humans ate meat when they could find it and seafood and marine food; ie, clams, shellfish, fish, marine mammals. We forget that until 12,000 years ago we humans were not the apex predator. The great animals were – short face bears, dire wolves, saber tooth tigers, lions, huge hyenas. Humans had to hide on islands and protected refugees in the ice to prosper, and many groups were wiped out, again and again. On land, or in the interior, life surely was difficult, and dangerous.

It feels, a bit, as if there is a desire and urge to somehow classify we humans as somehow evolved from a peaceful, pacific species, to thus deny danger and death and suffering and tragedy.