The Windward Road

Archie Fairchild Carr(1909–1987) was the world’s leading authority on sea turtles, a legendary educator, a brilliant writer of both scientific and popular literature, and an internationally acclaimed advocate of conservation. Three of his ten published books are available from the University Press of Florida: Ulendo: Travels of A Naturalist in and Out of Africa, High Jungles and Low, and The Windward Road.

Archie Carr was the first person to earn a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Florida, where he taught until his death in 1987. Dr. Carr was a Gainesville legend and students vied with one another to take his Community Ecology course, which involved several major and minor field trips around northern Florida and southern Georgia. Listening to Carr talk about the sand pine scrub near Ocala or his comments as he guided students through the Okefenokee Swamp in canoes was a great privilege. He continued to teach this course even after he was no longer required to do so, having attained the University’s highest academic position, Graduate Research Professor.

Throughout his life, Carr traveled widely as a research and consulting biologist. His sea turtle studies took him to every part of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, northeastern South America, and Pacific Central America. He also visited and worked in east Africa, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and other places. When Carr began to explore the Caribbean to write about sea turtles, he saw that their numbers were dwindling. His essays from that time, collected in The Windward Road, were a call to arms for conservationists worldwide. Among the many accolades for Carr during his life was an O. Henry Prize for the chapter “The Black Beach.” Following the publication of this book, Carr was awarded the John Burroughs Medal from the American Museum of Natural History for exemplary nature writing.

Carr was often accompanied on his travels by his wife, Marjorie Harris Carr,, whom he married in 1937. Marjorie Carr was herself a respected ecologist, and was instrumental in the formation of Payne’s Prairie as a major national state park. She is remembered for her efforts to stop the construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal in central Florida, which would have destroyed an important ecosystem. The area, now called the Marjorie Carr Cross Florida Greenway, is now set aside for public recreation. The couple had five children, and all four of their sons followed their father’s footsteps into conservation biology.

*This article originally appeared in the print edition of The Florida Current.

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