The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

Hardback The Belknap Press

By (author) John Edward Huth

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  • Publisher: The Belknap Press
  • Format: Hardback | 520 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 236mm x 41mm | 998g
  • Publication date: 15 May 2013
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass.
  • ISBN 10: 0674072820
  • ISBN 13: 9780674072824
  • Illustrations note: 171 halftones, 54 line illustrations, 3 tables
  • Sales rank: 52,178

Product description

Long before GPS, Google Earth, and global transit, humans traveled vast distances using only environmental clues and simple instruments. John Huth asks what is lost when modern technology substitutes for our innate capacity to find our way. Encyclopedic in breadth, weaving together astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, and ethnography, The Lost Art of Finding Our Way puts us in the shoes, ships, and sleds of early navigators for whom paying close attention to the environment around them was, quite literally, a matter of life and death. Haunted by the fate of two young kayakers lost in a fogbank off Nantucket, Huth shows us how to navigate using natural phenomena--the way the Vikings used the sunstone to detect polarization of sunlight, and Arab traders learned to sail into the wind, and Pacific Islanders used underwater lightning and "read" waves to guide their explorations. Huth reminds us that we are all navigators capable of learning techniques ranging from the simplest to the most sophisticated skills of direction-finding. Even today, careful observation of the sun and moon, tides and ocean currents, weather and atmospheric effects can be all we need to find our way. Lavishly illustrated with nearly 200 specially prepared drawings, Huth's compelling account of the cultures of navigation will engross readers in a narrative that is part scientific treatise, part personal travelogue, and part vivid re-creation of navigational history. Seeing through the eyes of past voyagers, we bring our own world into sharper view.

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Author information

John Edward Huth is Donner Professor of Science in the Physics Department at Harvard University.

Review quote

The book offers a clear, comprehensive, and entertaining short course in navigation that draws on Earth science, history, anthropology, neuroscience, archaeology, and linguistics. It provides both a primer on navigational techniques and a tour through 'the historical evolution of way finding.' Huth punctuates instruction on celestial navigation and reading wind, weather, and currents with engaging stories and images. These are derived from sources as varied as the oral histories of Pacific Islanders and Inuit hunters, Homer's Odyssey," Icelandic sagas, navigational tables from the medieval Islamic world, and contemporary news reports and sailing accounts.--Deirdre Lockwood"Science" (08/09/2013)