I’m just going to lay this out there right now: This story ends with Ernest Hemingway’s brother sitting on a 30-foot raft in the middle of the Caribbean.
But first, let’s talk about Bill Warren.
Bill Warren is an entrepreneur, treasure hunter, Frank Sinatra impersonator, former Christian music host, and about 30 other descriptors. He’s probably a huckster, but he’s our kind of huckster. You’ve almost certainly seen something about him: This Treasure Hunter Says He Has Located Bin Laden’s Body. I could spend the next 2,000 words just writing about Bill Warren, but you’re here for the guano, so just read this exhaustive, entertaining, hilarious article bout him by CJ Ciaramella: The Nearly Astonishing Tale Of Bill Warren, Treasure Seeker.
President Millard Fillmore
The numbers are in, and over the last eight years, President Barack Obama has protected more ocean than any other president in history. His expansion of NOAA and implementation of a National Ocean Policy will impact ocean health and fisheries management for generations. By almost any measure, he has had the biggest impact on the ocean of any modern presidency. Which raises the obvious question: is President Obama the most influential ocean president in history? Not by a long shot. That honor has to go to the president who’s policies have fundamentally shaped and reshaped how we view and control ocean territory, who laid the foundation for almost all the ocean protections we currently enjoy, and who set the precedent for the American Empire. That man is President Millard Fillmore, and he did it all for bird poop.
Agricultural science is beginning to understand that soil is not just soil, but a collection of nutrients that are slowly drawn from the ground by growing crops. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are crucial ingredients. The Industrial Revolution is pushing agriculture away from passive crop re-nourishment processes and towards intensive, fertilizer-driven farming. Fertilizer producers can’t keep up. At the same time, the American whaling industry had reached its zenith and began to fall. Coastal whales were harder to find and the bold men of Nantucket ventured out across the Pacific in search of the last great whaling grounds.
In these voyages, the whalers found numerous tiny, often uncharted islands in the Pacific. These remote islands were refuges, not just for weary sailors, but for generations of seabirds. From these seabirds rose great mountains of guano, guano rich in the nutrients plants crave. Guano was the solution to the fertilizer crises.