Below the Convergence

Below the Convergence : Voyages Towards Antarctica, 1699-1839

By (author) Alan Gurney

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The image of a huge southern continent has haunted the imaginations of geographers throughout history. Not until the second of his great voyages in 1773 did Captain James Cook lay the theory to rest. This book tells the story of British, American and Russian expeditions, from the astronomer Edmond Halley's voyage in the "Paramore" in 1699 to the sealer John Balleny's 1839 voyage in the "Eliza Scott", in search of land, fur and elephant seals. These voyages were taken for science, profit and national prestige. Life was incredibly harsh, and often the seamen had to make their own charts as they navigated the stormy waters below the Convergance. The book desribes their attempts to discover and exploit the new continent, which was not the verdant land imagined, but an inhospitable expanse of rock and ice, ringed by pack ice and icebergs - the land of Antarctica.

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  • Hardback | 330 pages
  • 162.56 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 566.99g
  • 16 Apr 1997
  • WW Norton & Co
  • New York
  • English
  • drawings, maps
  • 0393039498
  • 9780393039498

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Review text

Throughout history, geographers were haunted by the thought of a huge green southern continent, Terra Australis Incognita, thought necessarily to exist in order to balance the continents in the northern extremities of the world. But not until James Cook's second great voyage in 1773 was the myth of this continent's existence finally laid to rest. Alan Gurney writes vividly of the arduous journeys undertaken by British, Russian and American expeditions to solve the mysteries of the southern continent, beginning with Edmond Halley's astronomical expedition in 1699 (when the astronomer spent as much time dealing with a recalcitrant crew as he did making observations) to John Balleny's voyage in 1839, hunting for fur seals. Many vessels sailed for profit as much as for exploration and Gurney describes the virtual extinction of the whales and fur seals, and the constant competition between various nations for the best claims. His is a remarkable account of heroic sailors, the irony being that all too often they had little notion of what it was they had discovered. Their collective story makes compelling reading. (Kirkus UK)

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