Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ever heard of a Labrador Duck?

When I first received the book, “The Curse of The Labrador Duck,” I thought, ok, maybe it’s a mystery. Then I read on – “My Obsessive Quest To The Edge of Extinction” – oh great, an environmentalist book. Then I read the first few pages of Dr. Glen Chilton’s memoir, and I was hooked.

Yes, this is a sort of mystery as Chilton sets out to find every stuffed specimen, bone or egg of the extinct Labrador Duck, a quest that literally takes him around the world. And yes, it’s an environmentalist piece, in that it’s a shame that such a fascinating duck is extinct at all. But overall, this unique book is a memoir of one man’s enthusiasm for his job and his unending passion for seeking the answers to the questions that interest him.

Dr. Chilton is a renowned ornithologist and behavioral ecologist. He is also known as the leading authority on anything and everything you’d ever want to know about the Labrador Duck, a species that went extinct over 150 years ago. He spent 10 years tracking down the nesting grounds of this black and white duck, the locations of eggs reported to be from the birds, and all 55 stuffed specimens of the Labrador Duck. His journey took him from the cold shores of coastal Labrador to the desert of Qatar. He met with an 80-plus year old Scottish collector of bird eggs, and with John du Pont, the millionaire/convicted murderer who claimed, contrary to rumors, that he never owned the elusive 55th duck. (It was located eventually in Qatar.)

Chilton proudly states “Twelve people have stood on the moon, but I am the only person ever to have seen every Labrador Duck.” A triumph indeed.

Chilton’s wry sense of humor shines in this lively account. Seeking the world through slightly skewed eyes, Chilton and his wife, Lisa, traveled the equivalent of 3.3 times around the globe in their search for answers that, frankly, probably only Chilton had ever wondered about.

But find his answers he did.

In fact, Chilton is so confident that he has seen all 55 specimens of the duck that he offers a $10,000 award for anyone who can prove the location and existence of another specimen, including the fabled missing one from the American Museum of Natural History. (see his website, http://www.glenchilton.com/) for more information.)

All in all, I’m glad I gave the “duck” book a try. It was a delightful trip into another genre of writing.


booktumbling said...

What a title. This sounds like such a fun book. I may have to look this one up. Great review

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

LOL - love the first paragraph! I have done that where I wonder what I have got myself into????