Book Review: Echoes of Earth

Echoes coverThis spectacular photo-journal records the ten-year adventure of author L. Sue Baugh and traveling companion Lynn Marinelli, as they visit the sites of the oldest rocks on the planet. Sue and Lynn are not scientists, but writers and artists, who may see the earth through different eyes. They see the art in the rocks. Why did they make such a trip? “The book began as a creative project to document the world’s oldest rock and mineral sites.” These artists “sought to experience a landscape that echoed what ancient Earth might have been like…” “Far from finding a landscape empty of humankind, we discovered that our very beginnings lie hidden in the story of the oldest stones.”

The book contains stunning and beautiful photography. The photos, both landscapes and close-up details, are composed with the artist’s eye. The narratives are short and to-the-point, yet convey a sense of “deep time” and connection.

Echoes NarryerThe journey begins in the Outback of Australia at Mt. Narryer north of Perth. There, granite and sandstones contain zircons over four billion years old. “Mt. Narryer turns blood red at sunrise, its rippled earth looking like waves frozen in time.”

At Akilia Island off the southwest coast of Greenland (see cover photo) they see the ancient banded gneiss that represents the oldest exposed rocks on the planet. Nearby rocks contain the oldest traces of life – 3.8 billion years old. They call this a land that Tolkien might have imagined.

In Blacktail Canyon, in the Grand Canyon of Arizona, a rafting trip shows them the 1.7 billion-year-old Vishnu Schist and allows them to ponder the billion year gap in time between the Vishnu and the overlying rocks.

Echoes stromatolites AustraliaNext is the Acasta River, north of Great Slave Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territory. There they see the 4-billion-year old Acasta gneiss, the oldest bedrock of North America. At Yellowknife on the Great Slave Lake, they see stromatolites, fossils of ancient cyanobacteria, 1.7 billion years old. These are hardy beasties as the travelers show in their visit to Shark Bay on the western coast of the Australian outback. There, the stromatolite-building cyanobacteria still live and build their mounds.

The book concludes with three chapters that show our connection to the ancient rocks. The oldest rocks contain the mineral apatite, a calcium-fluorine phosphate. This mineral occurs in our bones and teeth. Without it our bones would be rubbery. Mitochondria, the energy providers for each of our cells, are descendants of ancient cyanobacteria.

The last chapter is a summary. “The stones speak through the language of science as well as art, enhancing our sense of wonder about the knowledge they convey.”

Echoes of Earth is a large-format book (9″x11″) that is rich in imagery, both in its beautiful photographs as well as its narratives. There are many foldout pages so some photos span three pages. The book also contains some interesting “windows” in some pages that frame and blend into photos on preceding and following pages.

Baugh describes a sense of “deep time,” a connectedness to the Earth, or as the subtitle notes: “Finding ourselves in the origins of the Planet.” As a professional geologist, I can appreciate that feeling. Many times as I’ve tried to unravel ancient “cold case” mysteries, I, too, have felt that awe and connectedness.

The book is highly recommended.

Echoes of Earth is available from Amazon and from:

Note: There are several books with the title “Echoes of Earth” so if you search be sure to include the author’s name.  The Amazon link provided takes you to the correct page.

See other Wryheat Book Reviews.