THOREAU’S MAINE WOODS: A LEGACY FOR CONSERVATION by Dean B. Bennett; North Country Press, 2021; 144 pages, $29.95; ISBN 978-1-943424-65-8.


Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) is a well-known American “naturalist, a philosopher, a political theorist and a scientist” who also wrote more than a dozen books. One book everybody knows is Walden Pond,” written in 1854. Another book is one most Mainers never heard of, but should know: “The Maine Woods” was published posthumously in 1864.

“Thoreau’s Maine Woods” is Maine author Dean Bennett’s very smart contemporary exploration of Thoreau’s three journeys into Maine’s North Woods in 1846, 1853 and 1857, all chronicled in Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods.” Bennett is an award-winning environmental educator, author of 11 books and an artist (he even plays the banjo).

Using Thoreau’s book, journals and maps, Bennett has personally retraced Thoreau’s travels on foot and by canoe to feel, see and learn what Thoreau would have experienced on those three backwoods treks in the mid-19th century. Bennett has arranged each trip in chapters and essays, highlighting places, plants and wildlife with Thoreau’s writings, illustrating each short essay with his own beautiful watercolor paintings.

Detailed maps show the land and water routes Thoreau took, the same routes Bennett took in Thoreau’s footsteps. Bennett uses Thoreau’s writings throughout, as he describes rivers, lakes, ponds, mountains, islands, forests, animals, plants, his traveling companions and Penobscot Indian guides, even his worries about becoming lost in the wilderness.

Storms, difficult portage around waterfalls, bogs and boulders made travel challenging. He tells of remote settlements like Chesuncook Village in 1849 and Chamberlain Farm, a logging supply camp in 1857. Thoreau would be pleased to know of state and federal conservation measures like state parks, easements, trusts and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (2016). Bennett brings Thoreau’s Maine wilderness adventures to life, emphasizing that Maine’s North Woods are a precious resource that should be protected from exploitation.



TWO CENTURIES OF MAINE SHIPBUILDING: A VISUAL HISTORY by Nathan R. Lipfert; Down East Books, 2021; 530 pages, $60; ISBN 978-1-60893-681-6.

Maine’s shipbuilding history spans more than 400 years, and there is no one more qualified to tell that story than Woolwich author Nathan Lipfert.

With “Two Centuries of Maine Shipbuilding,” Lipfert describes the last 200 years of Maine’s maritime legacy, focusing on the period 1820-2020. Lipfert is the curator emeritus of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath after serving as curator for 46 years. As a maritime historian and archivist, it is widely thought that he has forgotten more about Maine’s maritime history than anybody else will ever know.

This is an expansive illustrated history of Maine shipbuilding, using detailed narrative and 398 photographs and illustrations to tell this remarkable story. In the first chapter, Lipfert briefly covers the first 200 years beginning in 1607 at the Popham Colony, with references to the Wabanaki Indians and colonial vessel construction.

His real focus, however, is on the last 200 years when Maine was (and in many ways still is) the premier shipbuilding state known around the world for the high quality and numbers of vessels built. Chapters are divided into 20-year periods. Lipfert describes shipyards, types of vessels, owners, men and women employees, the various trades, phases of wooden-hull and steel-hull construction from design to launch, as well as anecdotes about tycoons, shipwrecks, traditional ceremonies and the many “firsts” of Maine shipbuilding.

He artfully describes the thousands of wooden-hulled sailing vessels built, like schooners, brigs and clippers, as well as steel-hulled warships, submarines, container ships, tankers, tugs and yachts — even a presidential yacht built in 1931. Photos show shipyard operations and workers like shipwrights, lofters, caulkers, shipsmiths, riggers, welders and riveters, toiling year-round, six days a week for daily wages.

Learn why a vessel must be registered, enrolled or licensed, and what a shipyard dubber really does.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

Comments are not available on this story.