Author turns hobby into picturesque Juneau books

Naturalists offer slide show, talk and signing tonight

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bob Armstrong was shooting pictures near the Mendenhall Glacier in July when a man asked if he was working on a book.

Armstrong, a 71-year-old naturalist and photographer, was just out there for fun. But the question planted an idea in his head.

Less than a year later, he and writer Marge Hermans have drawn on vivid local scenery and facts to produce "Life around Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska." They also teamed up with biologist John Hudson to publish "Dragons in the Ponds," a scientifically accurate children's book about dragonflies.

The Juneau residents will present a talk and slide show at 7 p.m. tonight during a book signing at Hearthside Books in the Mendenhall Mall. The books will be available at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and local bookstores.

This is the 11th book for Armstrong, a retired biologist and Dolly Varden expert. In 1980, he wrote a guide to the birds of Alaska, a project that took him five years to complete.

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"I'm really interested in all things in the natural world around us," Armstrong said.

He spent 23 years with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, conducting pioneer research on Dolly Varden and spending nine-month stretches on Admiralty and Baranof islands.

"Watch time was meaningless. You slept when you were tired, ate when you were hungry," he said.

The two new books are thin and glossy and overflowing with pictures of wildlife. Images show a dragonfly in larvae form, eating a tadpole. In other frames, a dragonfly pushes itself out of its shell and dries its new wings in the sun.

A fat black bear strolls through Steep Creek with Coho salmon dangling from its mouth. A younger bear munches on fish from a perch in a tree. Horned, white mountain goats lounge on the mountains bordering the glacier.

Know and go

• Who: Authors and wildlife experts Bob Armstrong, Marge Hermans and John Hudson.

• What: Book signing, talk and slide show.

• When: 7 p.m. tonight.

• Where: Hearthside Books in the Mendenhall Mall.

Hermans weaves the information about the animals and the environment into paragraphs that accompany the pictures.

"She's good about the scientific information and putting it into words that anyone can understand," Armstrong said.

They printed 3,000 copies of the books, he said. The process was satisfying in part because they had complete control of the design.

"The important thing is to have fun," he said.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at

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