Sacred Sea

Peter Thomson (Author)


"Absoliutno blagopoluchnoe ozero Baikal!" the Russian scientist looking out over the great lake says. "Lake Baikal is Perfect!" And humans can never harm it.

For a man cut loose from his life in the U.S., Lake Baikal-Siberia's sacred inland sea-becomes a place of pilgrimage, the focal point of a 25,000-mile journey by land and sea in search of connection, permanence, restoration and hope.

Following a difficult divorce, veteran environmental journalist Peter Thomson sets off from Boston with his younger brother for one of nature's most remarkable creations, in one of the farthest corners of the planet. Lake Baikal, a gargantuan crack in the Siberian plateau, is the world's largest body of fresh water, its deepest and oldest lake, and a cauldron of evolution, home to hundreds of unique creatures, including the world's only freshwater seal. It's also among the most pristine lakes on earth, with a mythical ability to protect itself from the growing human impact-a "perfect," self-cleansing ecosystem.

A trip halfway around the world by train, cargo ship and rubber raft brings the brothers to a place of sublime beauty, deep history and immense natural power. But at Baikal they also find ominous signs that this perfect piece of nature could yet succumb to the even more powerful forces of human hubris, carelessness and ignorance. They find that despite its isolation, Baikal is connected to everything else on Earth, and that it will need the love and devotion of people around the world to protect it.

On their trek to and from Siberia the author and his brother also encounter a stream of people who are also lonely, displaced and yearning for something beyond the limits of their own lives, but many of whom are also big-hearted and deeply connected to their own communities and the world around them. What begins as a search for restoration in nature becomes as well a discovery of the restorative power of trust, faith and human connection.

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
August 01, 2007
6.5 X 0.84 X 9.24 inches | 1.33 pounds

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About the Author

Peter Thomson is Founding Producer and Senior Editor of NPR's "Living on Earth" and recipient of 19 awards for excellence in broadcast journalism; currently freelance environmental journalist and member of Executive Committee of Society of Environmental Journalists.


"It's a portrait of a place, its people, and its problems. It's also an honest look at how far we have to go to get home again."--The Phoenix

"His account of the journey is a hybrid of environmental reporting and personal travelouge....Readers will enjoy his accounts of meandering across the Pacific on a container ship with his younger brother, camping among Siberian aspens and feasting on reindeer meat under the northern lights."--Natural History

"Traveling through woods, streams, hills, mountains, and pristine lakes, they had quite a voyage, and this in-depth recapitulation is absorbing in its detail."--Booklist

"Sacred Sea tells the story of an unforgettable journey to an extraordinary place. More then a travelouge, the book is a meditation on faith and home and purity in a world makred by contamination and impermance. For anyone who has ever though of ditching it all and heading for the middle of nowhere, Peter Thomson offers a lesson both unsettling and surprisingly hopeful: there is no esacpe from humanity."-- David Baron, Public Radio's The World

"The book is beautifully written and his descriptions make the landscape come alive: I couldn't help shivering when he jumps into the lake. As you travel with him you'll be transported far, far away - the perfect antidote to a dull day at the office."-- BBC Focus Magazine

"Thomson's book is a lucid and sobering reminder of the destructive effects human activity has on the planet."-- Publishers Weekly

"Exhaustively researched and lyrically written- a welcome addition to any library."-- Kirkus Review

"Recommended for public libraries and undergraduate institutions with environmental history disciplines."--Library Journal

"Recently divorced and living out of boxes ni his father's house in Boston...he quit his job as an environmental news producer for NPR and talked his younger half-brother into joining him on a round-the-world trip to a place where neither of them understood the language of the culture. The result is this superb paean to a unique and bizarre ecosystem." --ew York Times

"Important as a description of a threatened ecosystem, Sacred Sea also shines as an example of the kind of accessible evironmental journalism that is necessry to engage an otherwise indifferent public. Thomson's journey to Lake Baikal is one that the environmentally conscious reader will want to make with him."--ISLE