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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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 While ocean travel is now an ordinary experience that has been superceded by high-altitude jet travel, the Atlantic Ocean still retains a dominant and sometimes awesome impact on our lives.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. While humankind continues to build a post-modern civilization on its many shores, we are coming to recognize that in our greed and sense of adventure we have,perhaps, done some irreparable harm by depleting its once abundant resources. This book is a fitting tribute to a natural wonder that still has the capacity to unleash its incredible fury on us. Winchester writes with a flare for capturing the grandeur and gravity of the moment, whether it be storms, shipwrecks, exotic ports, or sea battles.
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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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on October 30, 2012
"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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on December 12, 2011
This book is typical Winchester. Well researched, thorough , thought provoking with great accuracy in describing land fixtures. The man's education and past experiences are very obvious and are used in a very charming way.
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on February 21, 2015
Like Krakatoa where I found it hard to identify with the main character - a volcano - in this book I struggled to maintain my interest in the Atlantic... great reading before bed if your goal is a deep and sound sleep....
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on May 31, 2011
A very entertaining book Informative and entertaining
A great read for the curious and inquisitive mind
Have bought additional copies to give to friends and relatives
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