“I suppose I realized I was working toward a book when I asked myself, How close can you get to an extinct bird? And then, I set out to try. My journey of combing through museums and specimen drawers was what ultimately spurred the longer narrative. Once I held an extinct bird skin in my hands, I knew I had to start sounding some alarms about our own environmental crises.”
Though the Bible offers no specific coordinates (hardly unexpected given that the entirety of the world’s creation was summed up in a few deft lines), it does offer a few clues for religious scholars to puzzle over. Such as the Bible’s mention of Eden’s location near the site of four rivers: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates. For many, these ancient waterways—two of which still flow throughout western Asia—would confirm Eden’s location in or around modern day Iraq, Syria and Kuwait. Yet Van Slyke had another theory, believing the four rivers referenced were, in fact, the Trempealeau, the Black, the La Crosse, and the Mississippi—thereby confirming Galesville, Wisconsin as Eden’s true locale.
In 1881, while wandering the woods near their Spring Valley, Wisconsin home, brothers William and George Vanasse spotted a small creature scurry into a hole. The boys gave chase, prodding the hole with a stick until the stick slipped, then listening as it clattered far below. Curious, the young adventurers returned to their hole the following day, and after securing a rope to a nearby tree, descended into darkness. Guided by lantern light, their shadows swelled along the cool limestone walls until at last their feet touched solid ground.