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The ocean to be crossd, the distant to be brought near,The lands to be welded together.-Walt WhitmanThe stories of the great explorers have always enchanted me. I assumed they went off on their wild adventures simply for the heck of it all, but as this book makes clear, the main reason for the beginning of the Pathfinders was to overcome the adverse balance of trade. Because China and the lands of the Indian Ocean provided silks and spices and gems, the Romans and later Europeans were the end-consumers with a burning desire to control the sources.This book looks at exploration from the ancient times, providing chapters on every corner of the globe. Each discovery is presented chronologically, so that we see mankind grow braver as the centuries roll on. The Polynesians were quite exceptional, as they developed a system of sailing against the wind, which sounds crazy. However, by doing this, the masters of the currents could ensure the ability to return quickly with the wind, which could be life-saving. Hawaii was a one-off discovery, which allowed its culture to develop in isolation until Mr. Cook came along. What makes an explorer go through great perils? The Norwegians felt the answer was in mans threefold nature. One motive is fame, another curiosity, and a third is lust for gain. Magellans famous voyage was barely survived (minus the leader) thanks to scurvy and absolute fear. Franklins men died in the frozen wastes of the Arctic. Chinese explorers fought with dragons who spit wind. Mysterious demons were blamed for lost paths and treacherous reefs.We are in an unknown world and we stop for...blubber.The book shows there were always disputes about priorities. Find new lands or exploit new lands. Or do both. Propaganda was used to build up dreams of glory, such as naming the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. As anyone who has ever sailed in those wild seas filled with huge rogue waves would know, the name was a misnomer. The greatest ocean in the world was named the Pacific so that the next set of explorers would believe it was a benevolent and glassy field of blue.Patriotic pride exempts explorers from sanity.The author does not hold back on occasional slipped-in thoughts about various countries and explorers.1. Cortes is overrated as a conqueror.2. The English tend to be self-congratulatory about their maritime traditions.3. England was a realm of lightly gilded savagery and serious underachievement.4. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was a heroic failure.I am right in the middle as to my thoughts about this publication. The research is there and I did rather enjoy some of the revisionist razzing. But the writing feels academic and the weird orientations of the maps...disoriented me. I had to keep turning the book around to get a feel as to where I was when a map appeared. Still, I could not stop reading, hearing the sirens much as the sailors heard the seas.Stop staring at the sail and steer by the feel of the wind on your cheeks.Book Season = Summer (broiling sun, no water, no land)

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