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Sextant
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In the tradition of Dava Sobel's `Longitude' comes sailing expert David Barrie's compelling and dramatic tale of invention and discovery - an eloquent elegy to one of the most important navigational instruments ever created, and the daring mariners who used it to explore, conquer, and 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 Perouse, 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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About the Author

David Barrie was for many years in the Diplomatic Service, and has held many distinguished posts since then. He is a passionate and dedicated sailor and was inspired to write this book in homage to the remarkable people who brought celestial navigation to perfection, and to the generations of mariners who put the sextant to such good use in charting the world's oceans. He lives in West London.

Reviews

`As lovingly and painstakingly constructed as the navigators' one irreplaceable talisman, this 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, its verniers and lenses kept secure in a mahogany box, closed by a hasp of brass' Simon Winchester `Barrie's writing is exhilarating and suffused with a sense of adventure. A fascinating read' Financial Times `What gives Sextant its special colour is Barrie's own experience as a sailor ... His book is an elegy for the days before GPS made simultaneous geniuses and idiots of us all ... He invites anyone near the sea, and above all on a boat, to turn away from their screens and look around' Daily Express `A bracing historical tale' The Times `A joy to read ... one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I've read in years' Flying Fish, magazine of the Ocean Cruising Club `It gives the reader the idea that he is having a conversation with someone who knows his subject intimately, but wears the knowledge lightly... The end result is a work that is a useful history of astro, and an excellent introduction to some of the great names in exploration. An excellent present for anyone even vaguely interested in the stars, or the history of exploration, or sailing small boats over big oceans, or come to think of it anyone at all. And buy a copy for yourself while you're about it' Marine Quarterly

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