Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans

Brian Fagan. Bloomsbury, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60819-005-8
The Vikings coined a word—æfintyr—to describe humanity’s restless need for exploration, but the urge itself has been felt on every shore throughout history. Drawing on a lifetime of sailing, Fagan (Elixir), U.C.–Santa Barbara emeritus professor of anthropology, does more than reconstruct the sea routes and watercraft used by ancient mariners. He recreates their mental states and imagines what forces inspired them to leave the land behind. Tacking between first-person anecdotes, archeological explanations, and fictionalized scenes from the distant past, this salty work of historical imagination travels with the Micronesian outriggers that ferried moai carvers to Easter Island, the Egyptian timber barges that carried the cedars of Lebanon to the pharaohs, and the black ships that brought the Greek heroes to the gates of Troy. With today’s diesel engines, GPS displays, and satellite communications, these long-cherished skills are all but forgotten. Few people alive today could do what Micronesian sailors accomplished millennia ago, let alone rival the skills of a master navigator like Christopher Columbus. Fagan has produced a loving tribute to their achievement, as well as a bittersweet testimony to the loss as well as gain brought by modern technology. Agent: Susan Rabiner, Susan Rabiner Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2012
Release date: 07/03/2012
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