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Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms,and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories Hardcover – Nov 2 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (Nov. 2 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061702587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061702587
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #242,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Winchester brings a knowledge as vast and deep as his subject to this history of the Atlantic Ocean.” (Entertainment Weekly)

From the Back Cover

Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, the New York Times bestselling author of Krakatoa tells the breathtaking saga of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, setting it against the backdrop of mankind's intellectual evolution

Until a thousand years ago, no humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to far shores—whether it was the Vikings, the Irish, the Chinese, Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south—the Atlantic evolved in the world's growing consciousness of itself as an enclosed body of water bounded by the Americas to the West, and by Europe and Africa to the East. Atlantic is a biography of this immense space, of a sea which has defined and determined so much about the lives of the millions who live beside or near its tens of thousands of miles of coast.

The Atlantic has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists and warriors, and it continues to affect our character, attitudes, and dreams. Poets to potentates, seers to sailors, fishermen to foresters—all have a relationship with this great body of blue-green sea and regard her as friend or foe, adversary or ally, depending on circumstance or fortune. Simon Winchester chronicles that relationship, making the Atlantic come vividly alive. Spanning from the earth's geological origins to the age of exploration, World War II battles to modern pollution, his narrative is epic and awe-inspiring.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 27 2011
Format: Paperback
For those of us who love to read about the sea and all its mysterious powers, here is a masterful account of maritime history worth reading. Winchester, famous for writing about big topics such as imperial outposts and mighty volcanoes, has produced a colorful and detailed treatment of the Atlantic Ocean as it grudgingly yielded its bathyal wonders to modern civilization. This is a massive body of salt water that, in Winchester's mind, posed all kinds of intellectual, spiritual and physical challenges to early Europeans as they set out in earlier centuries to conquer its waters and claim the vast territory bordering them. In the mind of the ancients, there has always been an enduring legend lying deep beneath its surface: murky depths, strange creatures, fantastical mirages and supernatural forces. For a good part of the modern age, the Atlantic Ocean has been an inspiration for poets, musicians, novelists, and painters as they tried to capture the feelings of being swallowed up in its great and terrifying expanse. A reading of "Atlantic" launches into some of the ingenious and daredevil enterprises undertaken in the name of expanded trade and commerce, military conflict, shipbuilding, fishing, telegraphy, and marine biology. Winchester recounts numerous stories about illustrious people like Alcock and Brown, Drake, Magellan and Nelson who saw this ocean as a natural obstacle to be conquered in order to create a bigger and better world. While ocean travel is now an ordinary experience that has been superceded by high-altitude jet travel, the Atlantic Ocean still retains a dominant and sometimes awesome impact on our lives. It is the source of much of our inclement weather in the northern hemisphere and, up until now, a reliable food source.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 4 2014
Format: Paperback
Winchester has had a lifetime of Atlantic crossings, and can weave his personal accounts in with those of vast numbers of other voyagers down the centuries. It's a rambling and enthusiastic book, full of historical lore and incredibly detailed vocabulary. It features the drama of geological plate tectonics, but mostly focuses on Western man, especially English man, at sea. There's the early explorers, the seaside cities, the naval wars, and commercial advances Only late in the book does Winchester look seriously at the life within the sea. He never gets really oceanographical, and includes no accounts of undersea explorers. Still, the accounts of overfishing and global warming are gripping. Maybe the best part is the fascinating and informative but admittedly speculative writing on how the seas may be changing -- chemically, biologically, and climatically. Always the concern is on how humanity and the ocean affect each other's lives. Winchester's conviction that the Atlantic is at the core of human history is Eurocentric, but his appreciation for the sea's majesty is pretty universal
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Billie Cussons on Oct. 30 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Atlantic" was a wonderful book to experience. I was hooked (sorry!) from the first, with the use of the poem to describe the stages in the ocean's development, comparing with the human stages.
It is rich, absorbing, and full of incredible knowledge.
I have since bought the book: the Kindle couldn't display the maps well, and I want to keep this for my "real book" library.
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Format: Paperback
I actually found this book quite interesting. There are a lot of things to like about Simon Winchester's "Atlantic." First off, the structure of the book is quite creative. Winchester has adapted the "All the world's a stage" speech from Shakespeare's "As You Like It." Each of Shakespeare's seven stages of a man's life, from infant until second childishness, is used to examine the stages in the life of the ocean. We see the ocean born and eventually die, just as a man does. And we see all its stages in between, as man discovers, explores, interprets, uses and then misuses this grand ocean we call the Atlantic.

Second, Winchester's ocean really is "a vast ocean of a million stories," and most of them are fascinating. While I enjoyed the historical chapters, more than the geological ones, Winchester has put together a book that covers nearly every aspect of interest. I was amazed to see that so much of our modern world today has grown and developed in and around the Atlantic Ocean. I did not know, for example, the "hidden story" of the eventual creation of the State of Israel. The Royal Navy's need for acetone led Chaim Weizmann, who had developed a special technique to create the substance, to come into favour with such figures as the future Prime Minister David Lloyd George and his foreign secretary Arthur Balfour. The rest of course is history and we all know how important the Balfour Declaration was in Israel's eventual independence. But "Atlantic" is filled with such stories.

Third, Winchester is just a great writer and knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. I was endlessly amazed at all the things he's done and the places he's been.
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