Mauricio Obregón. Random, $21.95 (176p) ISBN 0-679-46326-7
An experienced sailor, Obregón (who before his death in 1998 was a member of Harvard's board of overseers) succeeded in his lifelong attempt to replicate, in detail, the journeys of some of the most daring, famous, even mythic voyagers and seafaring peoples of the past, including the Argonauts' expedition in search of the Golden Fleece, Odysseus' 10-year journey home after the Trojan War, the Vikings' visits to North America, the Muslims' voyages to the east and Polynesians' exploration of the Pacific. He based his voyages on geographical, meteorological and celestial information available in ancient accounts such as the Icelandic sagas. As he recounts what it was like to re-create these ancient itineraries, Obregón comments not only on how the risks those sailors took opened up the world, but also on the types of ships and rigging they used, details of their navigational techniques and insight into their sophisticated understanding of the complexities of the varying winds coming from all four points of the globe. The book, although not scholarly (there are no footnotes and only a minimal bibliography), will appeal to professional historians precisely because Obregón's conclusions, for the most part reasonable, are based on his own considerable experience traveling on the same, largely immutable waters as his subjects. (Jan.)
Forecast: In addition to those professional historians, the book, which exudes an almost bewitching charm, lends itself to a wider readership interested in seafaring and its lore. With 47 carefully selected illustrations, this title will make an excellent gift for anyone eager to be entertained by tales of adventure and romance from the distant past.