Monarchs on the Move

We have been watching our local Monarch butterflies since early August, fluttering around our wetland Milkweed and Joe Pye weeds.

With the grand-kids, we have been able to observe the singular egg, the distinctive caterpillars who ate the leaves voraciously…like lawn mowers… the delicate chrysalis, and finally, the magical moments of transformation to an adult butterfly!

Please enter Monarch in the Search Box in the upper right to see more on Migrating Monarchs from GreatRiver.com

Boaters in September will find them frequenting the Mississippi River on their meandering, multi-generational migration to Mexico and back.

Yes! Great River Arts offers quality note cards, Prints, and Map art for a variety of Butterfly Species. Find beautiful hand-painted map art and quality prints of Mexico and the Caribbean! Visit greatriverarts.com

Sandwich Islands, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, West Indies1878

Sullivan Brothers, Waterloo, IA

 
The story of Iowa’s five Sullivan brothers is one I have been meaning to share for a long time! I was contacted by family members when I did the last update to Volume 2 of DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road. The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, has since taken it  on as a way to celebrate ALL Iowa Veterans.
 
Looking for a great historic get-away? This might be a meaningful destination for you!

    

Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo’s five Sullivan Brothers gained national attention when they enlisted in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor and insisted they be allowed to “stick together” while in the service. After initially refusing, the Navy granted their request. All five brothers were lost when their ship, the USS Juneau, was torpedoed on November 13, 1942, following the Battle of Guadalcanal. This sacrifice remains the largest single loss for a family in American military history.

“As Commander-in-Chief, I want you to know that the entire nation shares your sorrow … I am sure that we all take heart in the knowledge that they fought side by side. As one of your sons wrote, ‘We will make a team together that can’t be beat.’ It is this spirit which in the end must triumph.”
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Thomas and Aleta Sullivan, January 13, 1943

The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum honors the service and sacrifice of all Iowa Grout Museum Districtveterans from the Civil War to present. Step into their stories through traditional exhibits, interactive activities and an electronic Wall of Honor. The Museum consists of over 35 interactive exhibits. Interviews collected via the Voices of Iowa Oral History Project total over 1,500

HOME /  SITES & EXHIBITS / SULLIVAN BROTHERS IOWA VETERANS MUSEUM

Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum

The Story of the Sullivan Brothers and Their Impact on Navy Policy…

The Sullivans enlisted in the US Navy on January 3, 1942, with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before, but their brothers had not. All five were assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau. (all links provided by Wickipedia).

 Early in the morning of November 13, 1942, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw. Later that day, as it was leaving the Solomon Islands’ area for the Allied rear-area base at Espiritu Santo with other surviving US warships from battle, the Juneau was struck again, this time by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-26. The torpedo likely hit the thinly armored light cruiser at or near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.

Captain Gilbert C. Hoover, commanding officer of the light cruiser USS Helena and senior officer present in the battle-damaged US task force, was skeptical that anyone had survived the sinking of the Juneau and believed it would be reckless to look for survivors, thereby exposing his wounded ships to a still-lurking Japanese submarine. Therefore, he ordered his ships to continue on towards Espiritu Santo. Helena signaled a nearby US B-17 bomber on patrol to notify Allied headquarters to send aircraft or ships to search for survivors.

But in fact, approximately 100 of Juneau‘s crew had survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship and were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under orders not to break radio silence, did not pass the message about searching for survivors to their headquarters until they had landed several hours later. The crew’s report of the location of possible survivors was mixed in with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days. It was not until days later that headquarters staff realized that a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to begin searching the area. In the meantime, Juneau’s survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days,[1] before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.[2]

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivans were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12.[2] That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”[3]

The brothers left a sister, Genevieve (1917–1975). Al was survived by his wife Katherine Mary and son Jimmy. Joe left a fiancée named Margaret Jaros, while Matt left behind a fiancée named Beatrice Imperato.[1] The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” became national heroes. President Roosevelt sent a letter of condolence to their parents. Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers.

Tom and Alleta Sullivan made speaking appearances at war plants and shipyards on behalf of the war effort.[4] Later, Alleta participated in the launching of a destroyerUSS The Sullivans, named after her sons.[5]

On Saturday, March 17, 2018 the wreckage of the USS Juneau was discovered by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen off the coast of the Solomon Islands.[6]

 
  • As a direct result of the Sullivans’ deaths (and the deaths of four of the Borgstrom brothers within a few months of each other two years later), the U.S. War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy.[7]
  • A museum wing has been built in honor of their service in World War II. The museum is located in downtown Waterloo, Iowa, their hometown. It was completed in 2008. The grand opening occurred on November 15, 2008. The $11.5 million, state-of-the-art facility aims to play a role in preserving the history and service of Iowa veterans and serve as a facility for research and genealogy studies.[8]
  • The Navy named two destroyers The Sullivans to honor the brothers: The Sullivans (DD-537) and The Sullivans (DDG-68). DD-537 was the first American Navy ship ever named after more than one person. The motto for both ships was/is “We stick together.”[9]
  • Al Sullivan’s son served on board the first USS The Sullivans. His grandmother christened the first ship. The second USS The Sullivans was christened by Al’s granddaughter Kelly Ann Sullivan Loughren.[10]
  • Thomas and Alleta Sullivan toured the country promoting war bonds and asked that none of their sons died in vain.[11]
  • Genevieve, their only sister, served in the WAVES. She was the girlfriend of Bill Ball, whose death at Pearl Harbor prompted her brothers to join the Navy to avenge him.[12]
  • The brothers’ story was filmed as the 1944 movie The Sullivans (later renamed The Fighting Sullivans) and inspired, at least in part, the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.[13] The Sullivans were also briefly mentioned in Saving Private Ryan.
  • The brothers’ hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, renamed its convention center in 1988 as “The Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center”. In June 2017, the city was considering a proposal to sell the center to a developer who would renovate the facility and change its name. The proposal met with some community opposition.[14] The town also named a street and a public park in their honor. The park is the location of their childhood home.[15]
  • The Sullivans were not the only brother sailors on board the ship. There were at least thirty sets of brothers, including the four Rogers brothers from New Haven, Connecticut. Before the ill-fated Savo Island operation, two of the Rogers brothers were transferred to other commands. According to those who survived, had the ship returned to port safely, at least two Sullivans would have also transferred.[1]
  • The Sullivan Brothers have a Department of Defense Dependents Schools elementary school in Yokosuka, Japan, named in their honor.[16]
  • The song “Sullivan” by the alternative rock band Caroline’s Spine tells the story of the Sullivans.[17]
  • The Sullivans Association, an organization of veterans who served on both US Navy ships named after the brothers, conducted a reunion on September 25, 2011, in Waterloo, Iowa. The attendees gathered at Sullivans Park, visited Calvary Cemetery and laid flowers at the graves of the Sullivan brothers’ parents and sister, and visited the neighborhood where the family had lived.[18]

Re-Discover! America’s Great River Road

Sunny days, green bluffs and sparkling Mississippi River remind us that fun and socially responsible activities are all around us…and not limited just to our beautiful parks!! The Great River Road offers easily accessible scenic overlooks, fishing spots, historic side routes to tiny towns with big stories to share, and a fabulous opportunities for watching large wildlife. Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Egrets, herons, pelicans, and Trumpeter swans are not hard to spot on a day’s drive. Take a picnic lunch and a copy of the nearest Volume of DISCOVER! AMERICA’s GREAT RIVER ROAD and make each day memorable!!

Check out all our Mississippi River products online at www.greatriverarts.com Are you a Kindle reader? Yes! Books are also available online at Amazon’s Kindle books and in regional gift shops along the river.

at Middleton and Great River Publishing have provided fascinating detail on life along the Mississippi River since 1987! The Mississippi River Activity Guide for Kids will provide summer structure for the elementary aged kids. In Volumes 1 (Upper), 2 (Middle), 3 Lower, 4 (Delta) of Discover! America’s Great River Road, Pat becomes your “friend on the road” providing in-depth background on everything you see along the Mississippi River. Father’s Day is a great time to gift your Dad a fascinating regional book or an historic map he will REALLY LOVE. Check out all our Mississippi River products online at www.greatriverarts.com

Sandhill Chicks Exploring the Homestead!

2009 2 chicks hatched successfully!

One of my all time favorite snapshots of the Sandhill Cranes with chicks in 2009. While the chicks (colts) are still quite small, the adults take them strolling through meadow, marsh, and even the pond.

Chick in Front, Dad in shade

May 6, 2020 and our single chick was hatched right on time, in the same locale as the parents have nested for the past 14 years. This year, I noted how very quiet and secretive they were around the nest. The second adult was alway on guard, well away from the nest, quite visible, but always on task. I think having an Eagle in the neighborhood has taught them to be far more cautious than they were in the first ten years!!

Exploring the Galapagos Islands!

WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT

The Galapagos Island cruise reports are among our most popular Waterway Cruise Reports.. .

The best part of traveling the Galapagos is an amazing up close and persoal experience with the wildlife who call it home. This seal really loved my backpack!

PART TWO of OUR WATERWAYS CRUISE REVIEW OF VISITING THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS…. Click HERE to read PART ONE.

Alex was our preferred naturalist… mainly because of his love of the islands, and because of his 20 years of experience! But for those whose personal perspective is that this was a “vacation” and no “mandatory learning” was allowed, we had a second naturalist whose main focus was “learn a little” and have a great time! Every Galapagos naturalist today is professionally trained to interpret and protect this unique natural heritage.

On my first open ocean snorkeling excursion, I panicked and clung to the ladder.

“Alex,” I urged, “don’t wait for me. I’ll just hang here for a while.”

“I don’t go anywhere unless you decide to come with me, or get back in the boat,” he explained. “I don’t leave you in the water alone.” I felt absolutely safe with Alex from that point forward.

Snorkeling, panga rides, and kayaking were all available options for daily water-based activities. Snorkeling was by far the most popular… Turtles, white-tipped sharks, swimming with sea lions, and even “circling-up” when visited by several hammerhead sharks provided highlites on our Galapagos cruise. Oh yes, and we were joined by a pod of leaping dolphins during one of many memorable panga excursions!

“I really could not believe it was ME out there snorkeling with Hammerhead sharks!” one Minnesota passenger exalted.   And sea turtles were ABUNDANT in the clear waters!
 

Twice each day, the naturalists led us ashore for an island hike. An afternoon nap was mandatory, so that everyone had the energy to do the really important stuff… like hiking among the booby’s and iguanas, and magnificent Frigate Birds.

The AMAZING thing is  that these creatures truly have no fear of humans!! It was as if we had entered into the Garden of Eden.

While it is not necessary to  be   a student athlete to visit the Galapagos Islands, for the first time on any cruise, we found ourselves to be among the older visitors, rather than the younger!

It IS necessary to be able to hike for a mile or two… some of it over rocky lava surfaces, or up and down short steep slopes.

“Wet landings” are common, so be prepared to swing your legs over the side of a rubber panga and in the gentle surf!

I did bring two pieces of “gear” that I found incredibly useful…trekking poles that could be unscrewed to fit in a small carry-on suitcase, and lightweight Salomon’s “Amphibian” style hiking shoes with webbing. The trekking poles worked great when we were on lava rocks.

The specialized water/hiking shoes were great for wet landings. The webbing meant shoes dried quickly. The hiking soles stuck like glue to wet rock and afforded comfortable cushioning for the rest of the hike.

Casual dress is definitely the order of the day for this cruise!

Lisa’s beautiful maps are also available on Textiles!! If you are planning a wedding, family reunion or other activities on a tropical island, textiles make great gifts for the whole group!!  Click this link to see Options!

To Our Valued Past and Present Wholesale Customers

With the uncertainty of the current moment, Lisa and I just wanted to take a moment to reach out to our past and present customers to let you know that Great River Publishing and Great River Arts are open as always for our precious Wholesale Customers and online purchases.

Our fresh printing of Michael Gillespie’s rail and steamboat era anthologies, Lisa’s newly printed 25′′ 1858 Plantation maps, our timeless favorites, the Father of Waters Ribbon Map and our 4 Volumes of DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road are ready to ship TODAY, Click blue links to see products directly online.

Lisa is prepared for your online wholesale orders at her shopping cart at www.greatriverarts.com Click SHOP to enter the shopping cart and use the code patspecial at checkout and the cart will zero out and we will invoice you manually as we always have, at the same wholesale pricing you expected from Great River Publishing. ( All online purchasers can continue to purchase online with no special code and no minimum purchase! Use keywords in the SEARCH button to find any of Lisa’s beautiful 400 map paintings and destinations.)

Your wholesale telephone order, email order, or other queries are always welcome!! Email: mapart@greatriverarts.com or Lisa at: 406.471.7563

Friends, we more than thank you for your continued support. Many of you have been buying our book, maps, note cards for close to 30 years! It’s hard to express how much I (Pat) have appreciated you through the years. If you have any questions. or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. Although Lisa will be taking over the bulk of our wholesale business, always, feel free to contact me … with questions, concerns, or a bit of tutoring on Lisa’s www.greatriverarts.com


Drainage Map of the Mississippi River and its Tributaries. Some Facts and Figures

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!
For Jack, who wants to know more about all the tributaries of the Mississippi River: how many there are,  their names, and how long they are!
NPS.gov watershed tributaries

There are some 250 tributaries of the Mississippi which drain a total area of more than 1,247,000 square miles–one third of the nation’s landmass–extending from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west!

We start here with quick facts on the Mississippi River and several navigable tributaries! Please follow links for a little more depth of historical interest and to see our collection of hand-painted maps!

The Mississippi River, from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, is approximately 2,348 miles long. The combined reach of the Missouri-Mississippi Rivers is 3,741 miles–a length exceeded only by the Amazon and Nile rivers. The Mississippi River has shortened by several hundred miles since the days of Mark Twain. Even today it varies 30-50 miles each year.

The widest navigable part of the Mississippi is Lake Pepin, on the Upper Mississippi, where it is approximately 2 miles wide. The average current flows from 1.2 miles per hour nearer Lake Itasca, and about 3 mi per hour nearer New Orleans. Our historic Mississippi River Ribbon Map has been a best-selling Gift for many years.

Yes! The Mississippi River map can be ordered FRAMED and delivered to loved ones from Great River Arts as a uniquely treasured Father’s Day or Mother’s Day Gift!

“This is a beautiful map!! My whole life is on this map! My home town, the towns where my kids live, even New Orleans, my favorite place to vacation!”

TRIBUTARIES OF THE MISSISSIPPI River  … Watershed map
U.S. Geological Survey EROS Center


Remember the great Mississippi River Flood of 1993? It wasn’t just the Mississippi River flooding that wreaked havoc, it was that all those tributaries flooded as well! At one point, the volume of water flowing past St. Louis was eleven times the volume of Niagara Falls!! You may also want to check out our interactive map of which of the tributaries are at flood stage today! Click INTERACTIVE MAPS in the category list, right hand column, to see where the tributaries are at flood level TODAY!!

Lisa now offers her own custom ribbon map designs of both the OHIO RIVER and the Missouri River. Please click on any map image for more info on the map or the tributary. Or PHONE 888-255-7726 to order any map. Click on map images for more info on the tributaries.

192 Missouri River Ribbon Map
017 Arkansa Territory 1827
The Arkansas River forms in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and meanders 1,450 miles through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  It is the main water source for the state of Arkansas.Click here to see
more Arkansas River facts and Artisan Maps by Lisa Midd

/

Ohio River Ribbon Map

The Ohio River is the second major tributary of the Mississippi. It is formed in Pittsburgh by the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela River and travels about 980 miles to Cairo, Illinois, and the Mississippi River. Interestingly, today’s Ohio River Basin is approximately the northern extremity of the ancient shallow sea that is represented today by the Gulf of Mexico! Consider that nearly 1/3 of the nation’s water drains past the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers at Fort Defiance in Cairo, Illinois!  

Click here to see more Ohio River facts and Artisan Maps by Lisa Middleton

The Illinois River

Illinois River Ribbon Map

The Illinois River, cutting through steep rocky bluffs, runs approximately 273 miles (439 km), with some 60 miles of scenic water. It flows through the heart of the State of Illinois, and links the great rivers of the American West with the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and finally the Atlantic Ocean.

Historically, the Illinois River has had a significant impact on the state’s economy, communities, and peoples. Long before Europeans discovered America, indigenous tribes inhabited the Illinois River Valley and settled on the riverbanks, creating a river culture of their own. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet surveyed the region, canoeing up to the Illinois River via the Mississippi River, hoping to find a route linking the Great Lakes to the Illinois River and the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the Illinois and Michigan Canals are the evidence that their vision became reality.

And for fun, checkout our fascinating 1841 STEAMBOAT MAP OF ILLINOIS
lists all the steamboat stops and distances along the Illinois River and the Mississippi, Ohio and Vermillion Rivers!

Wonderful detail!

119 1841 Steamboat Map of Illinois

Planning for an upcoming CRUISE? We’ve featured several of our SMALL BOAT CRUISE destinations here!
WATERWAY CRUISE REPORTS

Dreaming of a Small Boat Cruise through the Galapagos Islands?

For the moment, at the peak of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, dreaming is all we can do responsibly!! but there are many glorius spring island destinations we can dream of!  

For more great ISLAND DESTINATIONS, both within and without our US Borders, click here to see maps and destinations from map Artist, Lisa Middleton, at  greatriverarts.com

WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT

The Galapagos Island cruise reports are among our most popular Waterway Cruise Reports..  For most of us, the biggest puzzle pieces in putting together a small boat cruise are… “Who shall I travel with, and, when should I go?” 

209 Custom map of the Galapagos Islands Original fine art map of the Galapagos Islands, by Lisa Midleton. Greatriverarts.com  Add some magic to the walls we must look at just now!! Please Click this link for details.

Our May visit featured rich, green plant-life and fair skies. Every bird species, from finch to Albatross, lizard to seal lion seemed to be nesting, mating, and feeding with abandon. But, honestly, most species in the Galapagos are opportunistic when it comes to reproduction… one month is as good as another for attracting a mate and raising a brood. And any time you have the opportunity to visit these amazing islands will be perfect for you!!! 

WHO to travel with is another matter. A rule of thumb, is that smaller vessels rate better access to islands in the Galapagos. But we didn’t really want to risk chartering a small sailing boat with minimal amenities and an unknown operator. So we had an eye out for a slightly larger vessel, with a luxury tradition. We discovered the 32-passenger Galapagos EVOLUTION and Quasar Expeditions, it was clear sailing… especially in hind-sight…everything about this cruise and our eventual visit to the Andes highlands turned out to be immensely satisfying! With 32-passengers, a sleek classic yacht design, a modern, informative web-site, and luxury ratings for meals and accommodations, the EVOLUTION seemed to be our vessel.

 Quasar Expeditions is one of the oldest cruise operators in the Galapagos. The family has offered cruises of the Galapagos since the 1980s and offered us trouble-free travel planning… both cruise passengers had the advantage of knowledgeable and passionate naturalists, excellent food, and superb access to the islands. Quasar also organized our week-long land tour in the Andes highlands around Quito… Our driver and English-speaking guide took a personal interest in our satisfaction from the moment they picked us up at the airport to the moment they waved us off the Tarmac.

While Quasar Expeditions is an Ecuadoran company, every contact we had was with an English speaking individual.  From website to office staff, the company is positioned specifically to deal with English-speaking populations.

 “The understanding that we are an English-speaking company makes it easier for us to garner the finest crew, naturalists, and to meet the expectations of an English-speaking clientel,” I was told. “Plus, we don’t just want you to come and enjoy the islands, we want you to leave the EVOLUTION with a new cadre of FRIENDS. That just happens more easily if everyone speaks the same language.”

Click here to see MORE about the unique creatures and activiities on the Islands!

Lisa’s beautiful maps are also available on Textiles!! If you are planning a wedding, family reunion or other activities on a tropical island, textiles make great gifts for the whole group!!  Click this link to see Options!

Charting Our Course

A note from map artist, Lisa Middleton
Friends,we are all charting the course day by day in this confusing time. It seems if we miss the news a single day, everything changes the next, and the world is upside down. Kudos to all of you who are staying home to save lives! My sincerest regards to those who are personally affected by COVID-19. Thank you to those in essential industries who keep the world turning at times like this.

Maps represent our human experiences, memories, and a thousand little stories of the ancestors who beat impossible odds to create the historical maps we hold in our hands today. Our current circumstances are no less difficult, and we can chart the course together, day by day.

What makes our Museum Quality Prints Special

Our maps are unique in the industry! You may have loved ones who had to cancel their vacation, or know of a young couple who had to cancel their wedding or honeymoon. Maybe there is a grandparent in your life who has to be alone in quarantine thousands of miles away from you. There is no better way to tell them you care than to send them a map of a memory, a family legacy or even their dream!

“In her hands, a torn black-and-white 1883 plat of Montana Territory blossoms into a vividly colored snapshot of what the land once was. It remains a map by definition, but by execution it is now an ornate showpiece fit for the living room wall, touched by an artist’s hand with its essential purpose still intact.”
Myers Reese, Montana Quarterly Fall, 2014

We invite you to browse our galleries of more than 400 antique, Mississippi River, East Coast, West Coast, and original custom designed map art at Great River Arts…. greatriverarts.com !! Enter a key word in the orange SEARCH BOX at the top of the map page to explore the cartographer, the year, region or title that is meaningful to you. We hope you enjoy this gift of art and history!!

Leucistic or “White Phase” Birds.

I have been thoroughly enjoying a conversation on the Wisconsin Bird network online list. The chatter just now includes quite a bit about leucistic birds in Wisconsin… apparently it all started when someone reported a leucistic pileated woodpecker that returns annually to the same area. This fellow, while mostly white, retains its red crest!

Leucistic Turkey Vulture

Every so rarely a genetic WHITE PHASE appears in animals that are normally not white (except as albinos). But leucistic birds (deer, bear, moose!) are not albinos, and they can have s matters of white and smatterings of more colored feather, fur, or skin.

Albinism is a condition in which there is an absence of melanin. Melanin is what is present in the skin and is what gives skin, feathers, hair and eyes their color. … Leucism is only a partial loss of pigmentation, which can make the animal have white or patchily colored skin, hair, or feathers

The pictures on this page show not albinos, but a “white phase” or leucistic variation of the various species. Unfortunately, things are never as easy as you think that they should be!

John, from Mercer, Wis., contacted a genetistic who added the following information:

The literature on albinism clearly states that there are different kinds of albinism, and that some albinos may show some color in their irises – often a light blue or gray. An animal can be a pure albino or a partial albino. The most critical factor in producing melanin, the organic pigment that produces most of the color seen in mammals and birds, is the presence of a special enzyme called tyrosinase – the “TYR” gene (google this for all sorts of technical treatises). If the TYR gene fails completely, an all-white, light-eyed albino animal will be born. However, the TYR gene can be altered in dozens of ways, producing other albino variations, such as albinos with light eyes but with some color on their fur.

What caught my attention in the conversation was a post from Maryland. She commented that most leucistic animals she hears about seem to come from Wisc., Minn, and the Northwest.

“Does anyone know why that is?” she queried. Numerous learned responses indicate that it is entirely genetic, and not more common in the North.

That got me thinking about some of theories that abounded about birds, white buffalo, deer, and other such white or “Spirit Creatures” in the early 2000s.

Then, popular theory seemed pretty settled that these “white phase” or “Spirit” creatures are expressing recessive genes that helped to protect the species during the ice ages. I saw data which I didn’t save which demonstrated how quickly dark mammals would turn white as the dark animals turned into prey and those with a recessive white gene began to multiply.

In Wisconsin, a northern game warden told me that in his life time, he’s heard of two white phase bear cubs… both in the vicinity of Superior, Wisconsin. Hmmm… makes sense. The same game warden has seen only one white phase sparrow… nearly 40 years ago. I saw a white English sparrow in our yard a few year ago.

I wonder if the white phases of various birds of prey are also expressing recessive genes related to living along the edge of glaciers? I’ve also heard of Mississippi River islands with concentrations of white phase muskrats, and white phase deer  I’d love it if you could share photos of your “white phase” creatures for use in a future feature article.

Anonomous Photo, White Phase Black Bear Cub, near Superior, Wisconsin

Above is a very rare “white” black bear cub photographed in the west. Also known as Kermode or “spirit” bears. Normally found only in areas where the recessive white gene was encouraged by small populations cut off from the larger populations, probably by glacier formations. The white gene would have been advantageous to bears living on the edge of the snowfields.