Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation

Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation


By (author) Alan Gurney

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  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 145mm x 206mm x 23mm | 386g
  • Publication date: 23 July 2004
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0393050734
  • ISBN 13: 9780393050738
  • Edition: 1

Product description

From the time man first took to the seas until only one thousand years ago, sight and winds were the sailor's only navigational aids. It was not until the development of the compass that maps and charts could be used with any accuracy-even so, it would be hundreds of years and thousands of shipwrecks before the marvellous instrument was perfected. Its history up to modern times is filled with the stories of disasters that befell sailors who misused it. In fascinating detail, Alan Gurney brings to life the story of the perfection of the essential navigational device-the instrument Victor Hugo called "the soul of the ship".

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Author information

ALAN GURNEY, a yacht designer and photographer turned full-time writer, lives in Suffolk. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Below the Convergence and the widely praised The Race to the White Continent. Both books are available from Norton.

Review quote

"...looks as if it might do for magnetic north what Longitude did for, well, longitude." - Erica Wagner, The Times "...[I]t is in these chapters on Knight that Gurney shows best what he is capable of. Without laborious analysis, he charts a steady shift from theoretical to empirical science; equally deft is he in his narrating of Knight's capabilities as a business man (which easily matched his capabilities as an inventor). Gurney's digressive style also works to his advantage in his discussions of Knight, as he gives tantalizing suggestions about the ways in which accurate navigation, or rather, the ability to intercept escaping ships at sea and the counter-plunder, bolstered not only the naval supremacy of the British fleet, but also the national exchequer." David Thorley, TLS, 18 February 2005