cover image Finding North: How Navigation Makes Us Human

Finding North: How Navigation Makes Us Human

George Michelsen Foy. Flatiron, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-05268-1

Foy (Zero Decibels) ruminates on the primal skill of navigation and its metaphysical links to human nature while investigating the final voyage of his great-great grandfather Capt. Halvor Michelsen, who was lost at sea in 1844. Resolving to reenact Michelsen's final voyage, Foy begins with general research into navigation, traveling to the Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, which controls America's GPS system, and the Royal Institute of Navigation in London. He visits the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the University of London, where he learns that the hippocampus, which governs our navigational abilities, also governs memory. This leads Foy to the philosophical revelation that "human identity equals memory; memory equals navigation; human identity therefore equals navigation." He spends some time discussing failures of the GPS system and continually muses on the perils of relying on machine-based navigation. He finally comes to the realization that navigation begins with loss: "Living, no matter how much it hurts, comes down to losing landmarks... and then striving to find where we are again." Deep waters and deep thoughts fill these pages. With skillful prose and insight, Foy's account of the different aspect of navigation packs a powerful punch, especially when he embarks on his own voyage at sea. (May)