Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Storiesby Simon Winchester
"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… See more details below
"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.
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.
The Washington Post
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >