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3 of 3 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 While ocean travel is now an ordinary experience that has been superceded by high-altitude jet travel, the Atlantic Ocean still retains a dominant and sometimes awesome impact on our lives.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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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
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 November 1, 2015
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. He can turn what one might think a very dull matter into a truly exciting read (for example hisThe Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English DictionaryWho would think a dictionary could be so interesting?)

Fourth, I liked that he tried to be objective in his coverage of climate change and other environmental issues, showing both sides of the matter. No matter where you stand politically on some of these questions, it is hard not to see that man is doing some damage to the ocean, although much of the change may be natural.

The one thing I noticed, however, was that the book could have used a better proofreader. Winchester is clearly an intellect, and so it was unfortunate that there were quite a few mistakes (additional words or spelling mistakes, for example) that took away from the polished finish.

All in all, however, I would definitely recommend this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 11, 2015
This remarkable book traces the history of the Atlantic Ocean since it`s inception some190 million years ago,(Creationists beware) to the present day effect upon it of global warming and climate change.

Along the way there is the story of early explorers, those who first ventured upon it ( Phoenicians), and those who traversed it (Vikings and Columbus). Then the establishment of trade routes, including the slave trade; pirates and epic sae battles; the civilizations and cities that grew up along it`s shores; it`s onetime almost limitless resources and slow depletion due to overharvesting and fatal man made policies.

Filled with facts and anecdotes, meticulously researched, this informative and entertaining book should appeal to everyone, whether living along it`s coasts or in Montana, (where the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi which empties into the Gulf of Mexico, today considered part of the Atlantic Ocean).

It affects us all.
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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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