A ‘grand adventure’


Longtime locals, Mono Lake rangers David and Janet Carle release a book about traveling around the world following the latitude of the Eastern Sierra

Who would have thought something as seemingly mundane as a number could underlie much of the world’s most productive cultures?

That is what local authors and former Mono Lake rangers David and Janet Carle found when they set out four years ago to walk around the world following the same altitude that their home—Mono Lake—lies on—the 38th parallel.

Their new book, “Traveling the 38th Parallel, A Water Line Around the World” is the result.

It’s a lucid, well-written book that moves the reader from the salty shores of Mono Lake to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea with equal ease. It reads more like an adventure novel than a non-fiction travel book, and includes stories about people from around the world.

These stories remind the reader that humanity is related by more than just similar DNA, but also by dreams, worries, and challenges that are often mirrors of each other.

“It was a grand adventure,” said Janet Carle. “Following an imaginary line like this took us to some unlikely and wonderful places. Having a latitude in common somehow made us global neighbors.”

What they found was that the 38th parallel was the site of much of the world’s greatest cities and nations; Athens and San Francisco, Japan and Greece, Spain and China, Turkey and Portugal, Korea and the United States, to name a few.

“It is a temperate middle latitude where human societies have thrived since the beginning of civilization,” they write in the book. “It divides North and South Korea, passes through Athens and San Francisco, and bisects Mono Lake.”

Along the way, they found that the 38th parallel also included some of the world’s most significant bodies of water—the Sacramento Delta, the San Francisco Bay, Chesapeake Bay, the Tigris, the Yellow River and more—waters that are at the heart of great civilizations.

But those waters are imperiled, they found—polluted, dammed, fished beyond productivity. If the future of these great cities and nations is to be secure, so must the waters be made whole and healthy. It is this challenge they chronicle throughout the book in descriptive, clear words that make reading the book like reading an adventure novel.

“Our middle latitude line has distinct seasons with wet and dry cycles that humanity has been forced to adapt to ... often by modifying water environments,” David Carle said. “By the 21st century, modifications led to ubiquitous challenges to those environments. Though we encountered so many challenges, the other commonality that was so inspiring and hopeful was the number of passionate individuals working to address those problems. Their stories became the core of this book’s meaning and importance.”

The book is available at the Booky Joint, including signed copies. The book is also available at Spellbinder Books in Bishop and the Mono Lake Committee’s visitor center in Lee Vining.