In Scallop Season: A Nantucket Chronicle, writer Jim Patrick and photographer Rob Benchley, both longtime island residents, document a critical season as the Nantucket bay scalloping fleet attempts to recover from a disastrous year. The 1980-81 Nantucket catch of 117,000 bushels had shrunk to a low of 6,800 bushels in 1998-1999. Aside from Martha’s Vineyard, which was hanging on by a thread, every other scallop fleet up and down the East Coast had already lost their fishery. Would that be Nantucket’s fate this year?
This elegant, documentary-style coffee table book also stands as the only existing chronicle of the bay scalloping industry, or even the scalloping industry in general, since the 1910 Belding report to the State of Massachusetts. Patrick and Benchley take the reader on a moving and intimate journey, following the fleet through a season crucial to its survival. More than simply a pictorial record or a textual chronicle – Benchley’s lush duotone black and white photographs are closer to art than journalism, and the text, fueled by humorous and poignant interviews, is richly steeped in history and observation of the human condition.
Although the book follows the small world of Nantucket Island and its bay scalloping fleet, many of the larger truths voiced by these unique, charming, and wise men and women will resonate with anyone who cares about people and the world they live in.
Perhaps its importance is best summed up by Nantucket resident and National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick:
“Scallop Season is a marvelous book. Jim Patrick’s entertaining, insightful commentary and Rob Benchley’s often stunning photographs make this an instant Nantucket classic.”