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Sextant: A Voyage Guided by the Stars and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans [Format Kindle]

David Barrie

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

“As lovingly and painstakingly constructed as the navigators’ one irreplaceable talisman, David Barrie’s exquisite book is a hymn to a now-vanishing feature of maritime life, a finely-chased reminder of just how much we all owe to that one small piece of apparatus” (SIMON WINCHESTER, author of the New York Times bestselling The Men Who United the States and The Professor and the Madman)

“Beneath the book’s calm surface churns a melancholic message about how the comfort of technology — symbolized by the sextant’s almighty antagonist, GPS — has turned our gaze away from the stars.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Even for armchair adventurers with no sea legs to speak of, Barrie’s Sextant is a compelling read.” (Shelf Awareness)

Présentation de l'éditeur

With 2014 marking the tercentenary of the Longitude Act, this eloquent celebration of the sextant tells the story of this elegant instrument and explores its vital role in man’s attempts to map the world.

This is the story of an instrument that changed the world. In prose as crisp as the book’s subject, David Barrie tells how and why the sextant was invented; how offshore navigators depended on it for their lives in wild and dangerous seas until the advent of GPS – and the sextant’s vital role in the history of exploration. Much of the book is set amidst the waves of the Pacific Ocean as explorers searched for the great southern ocean, charted the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Alaska as well as the Pacific islands. Among the protagonists are Captain James Cook, the great French navigator, La Pérouse, who built on Cook's work in the exploring the Pacific during the 1780s, but never made it home, George Vancouver, Matthew Flinders – the first man to circumnavigate Australia, Robert FitzRoy of the Beagle, Joshua Slocum, the redoubtable old ‘lunarian’ and successful pilot of a small boat across the wild Southern Ocean and Frank Worsley of the Endurance.

Their stories are interwoven with the author’s account of his own transatlantic passage aboard Saecwen in 1973, using the very same navigational tools as Captain Cook, and the book is infused with a sense of wonder and dramatic discovery.

A heady mix of adventure, science, mathematics and derring-do, ‘Sextant’ is a timeless tale of sea-faring and exploration. A love letter to the sea, it is narrative history for star gazers and sailors, for everyone with a love of salty breezes and a sense of adventure. Beautifully produced, ‘Sextant’ offers storytelling at its very best.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.2 étoiles sur 5  38 commentaires
23 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Gadget to Guide Us, Before GPS 13 mai 2014
Par Rob Hardy - Publié sur
When I was at the Naval Academy nearly a half century ago, one of the courses, and it was a hard one, was Celestial Navigation, the use of a sextant, star almanacs, and charts to find out where a ship was located. From what I hear, midshipmen no longer study such things; it is easier, faster, and less liable to error to ask GPS where the ship is, and it is better to have the middies studying things they will actually use. David Barrie, a British sailor of yachts, probably knows about this curriculum change, and would not be happy about it. Sextants and celestial navigation are too important historically and philosophically and practically to let go. In the informative _Sextant: A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans_ (William Morrow), Barrie lets us know just how valuable sextants and star almanacs have been to him, and to humanity as it attempted the still-incomplete task of mapping our world.

There were primitive devices like the astrolabe or the cross staff by which the mariner might measure an angle toward a star, but the Scientific Revolution brought forth improved instruments in many fields. The genius of the design of the sextant is that looking through the eyepiece, the mariner can spy, because of a system of mirrors, both the horizon and the star in the sky whose height (altitude) is being measured. Once the index arm of the sextant is adjusted so that the star just touches the horizon, it is clamped in position, the sextant is removed from the eye, and the angle is read from the protractor-style arc at the sextant’s bottom. Throughout his book, Barrie quotes from his own sea adventure, sailing with a couple of pals across the Atlantic in 1973, when he learned many of the arts (and terrors and boredoms and deprivations) of seamanship including the use of the sextant. He also fills his book with the stories of far more famous sailors who set out to describe accurately the uncharted lands and waters. It is a surprise to find there are still uncharted regions; more than once Barrie tells us the charting is incomplete, as in reviewing the survey Captain FitzRoy attempted of Tierra del Fuego with only partial success: “Parts of the exposed southwestern coast of Tierra del Fuego remain uncharted to this day.” Some of the often grueling stories are about surveying voyages captained by sailors whose names we know, like Bligh and Shackleford; one captain we know mainly because the horticulturalist who travelled with him used his name for a flower discovered on the voyage, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, but his exploits deserve their own fame. Others were new to me, but all endured extremes of cold, heat, exhaustion, shipwreck, disease, cannibals, or scurvy just to make the world better known to its inhabitants. Lieutenant Pringle Stokes in 1827 was surveying the most dangerous parts of the Strait of Magellan, and made note of dangerous rocks, breakers, and reefs. He wrote, “The number and contiguity of the rocks, below as well as above water, render it a most hazardous place for any square-rigged vessel: nothing but the particular duty on which I was ordered would have induced me to venture among them.”

Barrie, who writes with clarity and enthusiasm, is a fan of celestial navigation the old way, and he makes a good case. GPS gives us an accurate location, but distances us from knowing where we are in that we don’t have to pay attention to our surroundings, the natural world, and the galaxy we live in. “By contrast,” he writes, “the practice of celestial navigation extends our skills and deepens our relationship with the universe around us.” To get a GPS fix, we have to have electrical power and receiving equipment that can fail. The GPS satellites themselves can be disabled and may be subject to being destroyed as an act of war. The signals can be jammed (and tracking signals are jammed sometimes by truckers who don’t want the company to know where they are), and when there is one-spot jamming, it jams the system for all of those around. Sailors who get a position by pushing a GPS button, Barrie says, are “denying themselves the precious rewards of agency - the use of hand, head, and eye to solve problems and overcome difficulties.” Besides, GPS can break in many different ways; we can count on Sun, Moon and stars to guide us whenever skies are clear.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Tried and true navigation... 22 mai 2014
Par Terry MacDonald - Publié sur
Unlike the good ole days, sailors now rely primarily on GPS to pinpoint their position at sea, as opposed to more traditional methods like star charting and using the sextant. Thankfully there is a revived interest in traditional boat navigation and ... boatbuilding, which you can learn about in SS Rabl's Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard.

The Sextant reads like an autobiography, novel, and historical account all at once! Dangerous and wonderful adventures of famous sailors and pirates are sprinkled amongst a vivid history of the development and use of the "mariner's most prized possession". Barrie also has a personal story to tell about his experiences with the sextant, which even in our technological age, still has great value!

"What could be more wonderful than to join the line of those who have found their way across the seas by the light of sun, moon, and stars?" he asks. By the end of the book he had me and no doubt many readers asking this rhetorical question. This is an entertaining and enlightening read, which has opened my mind to a very respectable tool.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The sea and the stars 15 juin 2014
Par S. Atwood - Publié sur
This is a delightful book. David Barrie weaves together his own experiences at sea with accounts of some of history’s most fascinating maritime voyages and the development of navigational instruments. Barrie takes us to sea with Captain Cook, George Vancouver, Matthew Flinders, Robert Fitzroy and Sir Earnest Shackleton (among others), bringing their adventures and trials vividly to life. Sextant is a window onto an age of seemingly limitless possibility and exploration, peopled by courageous and innovative figures. While Barrie’s sea stories entertain, they also help to establish his central point, for above all, Sextant is a tribute to the eponymous instrument. For Barrie, the sextant is not merely a quaint nautical artifact, but an eminently useful device that both hones and challenges the sailor’s seamanship. Unlike modern nautical instruments, which reply on GPS and computerized data and can function almost independently, the sextant is useless without the sailor’s knowledge and experience; it requires his understanding of mathematics and astronomy to function successfully. Barrie’s own knowledge of celestial navigation enables him to provide accessible explanations of the often intricate necessary calculations and observations. The reader is left feeling great admiration for those sailors who have mastered this complex yet elegant art. Barrie acknowledges the value of modern navigational systems, yet he also recognizes what has been lost as a result of increased reliance on new technology. Barrie argues that sailors “are not only turning their backs on the very things that make the whole undertaking worthwhile, but they are also denying themselves the precious rewards of agency—the use of hand, head, and eye to solve problems and overcome difficulty.” Sextant is a strong argument for the value and importance, not only of traditional navigational skills, but of the many other traditional skills we are in danger of losing.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Worth your time! 4 juillet 2014
Par S. Smith - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
An excellently written narrative that combines the author's sea adventures with historical events of maritime accomplishments of truly outstanding heroics! Along the way, the sextant is a focal point described as it was used in the past and still used today. Well worth reading for those who love the sea or just vicariously travel it!
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I loved this book. 23 juillet 2014
Par Jen Turrell - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I really loved this book. The author did a fantastic job of weaving his own story in and out of the broader history that he was telling. It was very well written and insightful. A must read for fans of Longitude and similar books.
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