Paul Haspel's Reviews > Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay

Beautiful Swimmers by William W. Warner
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Jan 15, 12


William Warner's Beautiful Swimmers is justly regarded as a classic of Chesapeake Bay literature. Writing in the year of the nation's bicentennial, Warner paid tribute to the odd and fragile beauty of the Atlantic blue crab that is -- or used to be -- found in such abundance throughout the Chesapeake. Indeed, Warner draws the title of his book from the scientific name of the crab, Callinectes sapidus; Callinectes translates from the Greek as "beautiful swimmer." (Sapidus translates as "savory," another descriptor that applies well to the blue crabs of the Chesapeake.) Warner supplements his tribute to the blue crab with a comparably admiring account of the work of the Chesapeake's watermen, the laconic and individualistic men who seek out the bay's seafood bounty, using time-honored methods in the midst of changing times. Another of the book's strengths is its exploration of the Chesapeake seafood industry centered around Crisfield, Maryland, and Hampton, Virginia. The book is well-illustrated, with lovely pencil drawings by Consuelo Hanks. More than a quarter of a century has passed since the publication of Warner's book, but his expressions of concern for the future of the Chesapeake's delicate ecosystem, as set forth in Beautiful Swimmers, seem downright prescient.
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