Coastal Heroes

<B>Coastal Heroes<B>

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Date Added: Wednesday 28 September, 2011

by George Klein

At last, Miles O. Hayes, eminent coastal geomorphologist, academic research and geological entrepreneur has published his memoirs ("Coastal Heroes."). This memoir is significant because instead of approaching everything chronologically, HAYES reviewed this life in terms of a stated goal, presented in the foreword: “to present the significant aspects of how coastlines evolve, stressing some of the original ideas regarding the origin and morphologies of coastlines of the world that my students, co-workers and I have made over the years.”

By far the most compelling and unique aspects of this book is its organization. Each chapter starts with a summary of the major scientific rationale and findings pertaining to a certain topic. That section is then followed by one or more stories about how the work was done, the experiences, the incidents, the fun stuff, the bad stuff, the logistic successes and snafus, dealing with international clients, developing networks, and dealing with a diverse range of people representing many different cultures. It is perhaps the best memoir I have read by a scientist because Hayes did what most memoirs don’t do, balance the science with the life aspects of getting the work done as well as enjoying life itself. In doing so, the reader is presented with solid scientific summaries of what Hayes, his students and co-workers accomplished in a readable, jargon-free form. The accounts of the life experiences associated with those scientific activities convey to the reader that coastal work is not just about admiring beautiful beaches, but involves complex logistics, using sophisticated equipment, and relying on a variety of people to get scientific work accomplished on time, within budget, and under complex working conditions.

Chapters range from the consequence of a hurricane on Hayes’ dissertation research and the positive outcomes from it, completing the research and running a professional field trip along the coast of Massachusetts, the geological importance of the South Carolina coast, and numerous chapters on remediating oil spills along the US Gulf Coast, Chile, Spain, France, Gaza, and the most devastating oil spill of alltime, Kuwait. Interleaved with these accounts is a discussion of Hayes’ transition from an academic to owning and operating a business, yet maintaining a structure in which to continue to undertake and publish significant scientific work.

A few comments are in order.

1)The discussion about the futility of using grain size studies to characterize sedimentary environments is absolutely on target. Although the modern sedimentologist has understood this, it was time someone said it and Hayes said it well.

2). The president of a client company considered Hayes an artist and suggested because his business flourished he should consider leaving it.. I totally disagree because by establishing his company (RPI), Hayes created an environment whereby he could earn a living doing what he loved best: coastal geology and geomorphology. The spin-off provided the opportunity to be an artist or enjoy other hobbies as a safety valve from some of the harsh realities that come one’s way.

3). Resiliency. Hayes demonstrated in this book the importance of being resilient and overcoming adversity. This man had to redo his thesis because of a hurricane, but he saw opportunity to do a definitive before-and-after geological study. He survived a major plane crash and continues to work. He survived economic downturns and found ways to continue through diversification. Above all, he learned very early to discern which people are likely to be great partners and colleagues to carry out his work and meet common goals.

4). Hayes is an outstanding photographer and the book is replete with many of his best photos. Some of the photos and illustrations were published for the first time and are definitive.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and rate it FIVE STARS. There is much to learn here whether one is starting a career, learning about Miles Hayes’ outstanding life, or whether one is an experienced geoscientist.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

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