From best-selling author Simon Winchester comes the immense and thrilling story of the world's most mysterious and breathtaking natural wonder: 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 to affect profoundly our character, attitudes, and dreams. 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 over-fishing, Winchester's narrative is epic, intimate, and awe inspiring.
Until a thousand years ago, few humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. 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 - the Atlantic swiftly evolved in the world's growing consciousness of itself as an enclosed body of water. Soon it became the fulcrum of Western civilization. More than a mere history, Atlantic is an unforgettable journey of unprecedented scope by one of the most gifted writers in the English language.
Tackling a subject as deep and I mean that literally as the ocean is not a task for just any writer. But Simon Winchester, a former reporter who has put his research skills to use on books about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, ably turns out a detailed and dramatic history of one of our most valuable resources. He also provides the book’s narration, with an expert’s reading that brings plenty of passion to an otherwise dry subject.
Winchester structures the book around Shakespeare’s famous passage about the seven stages of man the one that starts out, “All the world’s a stage” and traces life from its “infant beginnings” to its “sans everything” end. Here, the seven stages belong to the ocean, starting with its geological development and ending with a look at just how long it may last. In between, Winchester draws together countless stories, anecdotes, trivia, and facts, showing just how influential the Atlantic has been on life as we know it: Piracy, Moroccan snails, naval development, the age of exploration, whaling, poetry, literature, art, music, the Lusitania, global warming, international laws, pollution, submarines, seafood, overfishing, the slave trade, Lord Nelson, NATO, air travel, the Titanic, deadly battles, hurricanes, and Columbus all get their spot in, as Winchester says, “the immense complexity of an ocean that has been pivotal to the human story”.
Though it’s not always purely chronological, the organization by theme makes wading through this epic biography easy, and Winchester’s authoritative British accent lends a pleasant tone. And once you’ve heard about all the misconceptions people used to have about the ocean like that heavier objects would sink not just faster but farther toward the bottom than lighter ones, which would stay suspended at shallower depths you’ll wonder just how much more we have to learn. Blythe Copeland
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