Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
  • Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
  • Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

3.3 52
by Simon Winchester
     
 

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"From Simon Winchester, the author of the bestsellers Krakatoa ("A mesmerizing page-turner"---Time) and The Professor and the Madman ("Elegant and scrupulous"---New York Time Book Review), comes the immense and thrilling story of the world's most mysterious and breathtaking natural wonder, the axis of western civilization: the Atlantic Ocean." "Atlantic is a

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Overview

"From Simon Winchester, the author of the bestsellers Krakatoa ("A mesmerizing page-turner"---Time) and The Professor and the Madman ("Elegant and scrupulous"---New York Time Book Review), comes the immense and thrilling story of the world's most mysterious and breathtaking natural wonder, the axis of western civilization: the Atlantic Ocean." "Atlantic is a biography of a tremendous space that has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists, and warriors, and continues profoundly to affect our character, attitudes, and dreams. Poets and potentates, seers and sailors, fishermen and foresters---all have had a realtionship with this great body of gray and heaving sea and regarded her as friend or foe, bridge or barrier, depending on circumstance and fortune. Winchester chronicles that relationship, making the Atlantic come vividly alive. Spanning the ocean's story from its geological origins to the age of exploration, from World War II battles to today's struggles with pollution and overfishing, his narrative is epic, intimate, and awe inspiring." "Until a thousand years ago, few humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its seemingly limitless expanse. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to its far shores---whether they were Vikings, the Irish, the Basques, John Cabot, or Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south---humankind's view of the world swiftly evolved to encompass this vast body of water, bounded by the Americas to the west and by Europe and Africa to the east. Much as the Mediterranean had been the center of classical civilization, Winchester argues, the Atlantic became the axis of Western civilization, upon which the power and influence of the modern world have been defined and determined." Atlantic is the summation of Winchester's years of research and travel---from the rocky outcrops of the Faroes to the effervescent ports of Argentina and Brazil to the slave castles of West Africa and the seaside villages of Ireland. More than a mere history, this is an unforgettable journey of unprecedented scope by one of the most gifted writers in the English language.

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Editorial Reviews

Until a thousand years ago, the Atlantic was a just a fog-covered, watery boundary at the end of the world. When death-defying sailors finally penetrated into secrets, whole civilizations changed direction. In his "biography of the ocean," Simon Winchester paddles across distant seas to retrieve forgotten stories of plunder, heroism, natural disasters, naval battles, shipwrecks, and rescues. Another eye opening, absorbing narrative by the author of The Map That Changed the World and Krakatoa.

Publishers Weekly
Winchester, bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, returns to the natural world with his epic new book, a "biography" of the Atlantic Ocean, from its origins 370 million years ago through the population of its shores by humanity and their interactions with it. He sees the Atlantic as the vital ingredient in the blooming of Western civilization. He scrutinizes the early explorations from the Vikings and Norsemen through Columbus, detailing the perils of the open sea. With his excellent research and engrossing anecdotes about the ocean as "a living thing," Winchester spotlights its inspiration on poets, painters, and writers in its majestic beauty. Although he does not neglect the chief tragedies of the Atlantic, like the slave trade and the maritime battles, Winchester occasionally flits beelike from scene to scene, and the facts become lost in a blur. Maybe this is the price for such a monumental undertaking. Nevertheless, Winchester's sea saga is necessary reading for those who want to understand the planet better, even as, he notes, our waters are rapidly changing from pollution, overfishing, and climate change. 44 b&w illus.; 4 maps. (Nov.)
Entertainment Weekly
“Winchester brings a knowledge as vast and deep as his subject to this history of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Library Journal - Booksmack!
As much as Bryson's collection is about science, it is also about biography and history. On that note, fans who appreciate Bryson and company's wide view of a topic should find Winchester's blend of science, story, and biography, as he tells the tale of an ocean, a good next read. Winchester writes with the same open invitation to readers to join him in exploration, and he also offers that bedrock sense that something amazing has happened and we are all lucky to get a chance to experience it. In his exploration of the Atlantic Ocean, Winchester covers epic episodes of history as well as the creation of the sea and its future. This is a massive and sustaining story. Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads", Booksmack!, 12/2/10
Library Journal
How does one attempt to write a biography of a subject as old and vast as an ocean? Driven by a lifelong fascination with the Atlantic, Winchester (The Professor and the Madman) found inspiration in viewing the ocean and our relationship with it through the categories of Shakespeare's seven ages: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, old age, and second childhood. Employing a mixture of history, science, and anecdotes from both sides of the Atlantic, he envisions the ocean's birth and eventual death and explores how its boundaries were discovered and defined, the many ways it has affected the development of human society (artistically, militarily, industrially), and humanity's effect on it in turn. Though the sheer size of the subject obviously limits how much of the Atlantic's "life" can be related in a single volume, Winchester does an excellent job at presenting an extensive collection of the most interesting parts of its existence. VERDICT Winchester is in fine form, and his typically engaging style creates a vibrant portrait of an ocean that remains endlessly fascinating. Highly recommended, especially for those who have enjoyed the author's previous works. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/10.]—Kathleen McCallister, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia
Kirkus Reviews

The prolific journalist and historian returns with a story both geographically immense and profoundly personal.

Winchester (The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom, 2008, etc.) offers a tale about the Atlantic Ocean that is variably genial, cautionary, lyrical, admonitory, terrifying, horrifying and inspiring. He begins with a memory from 1963—his youthful transatlantic crossing aboard the passenger liner Empress of Britain—and returns to the birth of the Atlantic, perhaps 540 million years ago, providing a John McPhee–like history of its formation and development. Winchester then looks at humans' "infant" acquaintance with the ocean, noting that people first settled its shores about 164,000 years ago on the western coast of Africa. They soon ventured out on the ocean, then endeavored to cross it—the Irish could have done it, he says, but there's no hard evidence. The author chronicles the stories of Leif Eriksson, John Cabot and Amerigo Vespucci, and notes that the "schoolboy" phase of the Atlantic's life includes our attempts to understand it—to chart it, measure it, discover its mineral, vegetable and animal bounties and puzzle over its mysteries. For the "lover" phase of the Atlantic's history, Winchester sails across centuries of literature, art and music that in some sense celebrate the ocean. The "soldier" phase involves warfare on and around the Atlantic, from the Vikings to the Falklands. The "justice" section examines maritime laws of various sorts, from fishing to trade to communication. The concluding chapters deal with the depletion and pollution of the ocean, and the author projects a tone of both dire warning and feathered hope. Throughout, Winchester sprinkles passages of personal history, none more powerful than the epilogue about Namibia's Skeleton Coast, "a place so named because of all the skeletons, of both men and the vessels in which they had wrecked."

A lifetime of thought, travel, reading, imagination and memory inform this affecting account.

Ken Ringle
Simon Winchester is one of those maddeningly gifted British writers who could probably write the history of mud and make it fascinating…Now comes Atlantic, which he describes as a "biography" of the ocean. Has he finally overreached himself? Perhaps. But what a rollicking ride he gives us anyway…What's best about Winchester's writing is his mischievous eye for the irresistible detail.
—The Washington Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061702587
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/02/2010
Pages:
495
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. Those books were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Mr. Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by her Majesty the Queen. He lives in Manhattan and in western Massachusetts.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York; Massachusetts; Scotland
Date of Birth:
September 28, 1944
Place of Birth:
London, England
Education:
M.A., St. Catherine¿s College, Oxford, 1966
Website:
http://www.simonwinchester.com

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Atlantic 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a solid read for anyone interested in a broad history/geography of the Atlantic Ocean. Anyone fascinated by isolated islands, plate tectonics, and transportation will enjoy this book.
Hawkeye1939 More than 1 year ago
A lot of good information, but the presentation lacked. The author had a penchant for run-on sentences replete with commas, dashes, colons, semicolons, etc. that was very distracting. I found myself reading some sentences two or three times before getting the meaning out of them. Also, there were far too many grammatical lapses and factual inaccuracies for a finished publication. I don't know whether this is the fault of the author or the publisher, but such should not happen. Hire some proofreaders! Further distracting was the author's use of obscure English words, when simpler wording would have made the text more readable. If he was showing off his command of the English language, he overdid it. At least in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Full disclosure - I did not finish the book, I didn't even make it very far. I got too hung up on poor scholarship presented as incontrovertible fact and lost faith that what I was reading was a history of the Atlantic as opposed to a yarn that may be interesting to fans of florid prose but wouldn't let facts get in the way of a good story. The realization (over multiple examples in the first few tens of pages) that I just couldn't trust what was in here ruined it for me.
RightTer More than 1 year ago
Extremely informative and well written. I'm pretty well read, but Winchester used a ton of words i had never seen before. I used my Nook dictionary overtime.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Name: *fli<_>cks you off<br> Age: 12<br> Personality: unkown
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably an interesting, perhaps fascinating, book. It is probably unfair that I write that it depresses me when I'm told twice within the first several pages that humanity is doomed and will become extinct. I don't want to read it. I'd like to think humanity will figure a way out. So, sorry, I was looking for history of the Atlantic Ocean, not this author's gloom and doom.
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foultips More than 1 year ago
I love Simon Winchester's books. He's one of those few authors that you read anything they write just because it's written by them. I also happen to like the way he reads his audiobooks, so if I find him in audio I have no issue having him tell me what he has to say. "Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories". Wouldn't you pick a book with that massive title when it is written by one of your favorite authors? I sure did! Winchester is a geologist and he tells his story about the Atlantic Ocean from every possible perspective. He narrates it since the formation of this body of water, when it became a creek between Africa and South America some 220 million years ago, passing through its current growth of six inches a year and ending with how it will cease to exist some 180 million years from now. In between you learn about exploration, commerce, discovery, maritime biology, fishing, international law, weather, warfare, geology, boating construction, air travel, personal accomplishments and basically anything that could possibly happen where this magnificent body of water can be a part of. Historically we learn so many things about this pond containing 25% of all the water in the planet. For example, I had no idea that the Atlantic Ocean was "discovered" in the XV Century. Not because nobody had ever seen it but because nobody until then had an idea of what kind of body of water it was. The structure of the book, though, is a little bit weird for my taste. The chapters are divided in parts 1-9 and it became difficult to follow it at times and there are so many topics that you may feel a little bit lost every now and then. Also, there fact there are so many topics inevitably makes some of them boring, but it assures that every reader will find something for them when they decide to take on this incredible research accomplishment. Regardless, this is as good Winchester writing, as good Winchester writing gets. If you are a fan you will read it an enjoy it. If you are not a fan, you will still come out of this as a more knowledgeable person than when you started. That alone makes it totally worthy read. You can check more at my blog, LectumErgoSum dot com.
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