Simon Winchester,
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries,
Titanic Storms, & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

(HarperCollins, 2010)

"One cannot but hang one's head in shame and abject frustration. We pollute the sea, we plunder the sea, we disdain the sea, we dishonor the sea that appears like a mere expanse of hammered pewter as we fly over it in our air-polluting planes -- forgetting or ignoring all the while that the sea is the source of all the life on earth, the wellspring of us all."

That environmental theme pops up quite a bit in the narrative of Simon Winchester's Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories.

Winchester set out to write a book explaining all there is to know about the Atlantic, which he considers to be our most important ocean. An overwhelming task -- and one might doubt it's even possible. He may not have succeeded in his initial goal but he comes as close as anyone in writing a biography of an ocean.

He explains how the ocean was born, how people living on its shores reacted to it and how, most importantly, it has influenced the development of the civilized world. To do this, he tells tales of man's first attempts to go out on the water, pirates, naval battles, the development of sea-going commerce and other topics. He also includes numerous anecdotes from his personal experience with the ocean.

He fears for our future if we don't change and start treating our environment like a home and not a garbage pit.

I'm not opposed to space exploration. It has resulted in many benefits for mankind. Still, I wish just a portion of the money and the interest could be directed toward oceanography. This is the planet on which we live. I have no desire to go live on a barren rock where there's no other forms of life.

book review by
John Lindermuth

20 August 2016

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