Customer Reviews


32 Reviews
5 star:
 (15)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gadget to Guide Us, Before GPS
When I was at the Naval Academy nearly a half century ago, one of the courses, and it was a hard one, was Celestial Navigation, the use of a sextant, star almanacs, and charts to find out where a ship was located. From what I hear, midshipmen no longer study such things; it is easier, faster, and less liable to error to ask GPS where the ship is, and it is better to have...
Published 9 months ago by R. Hardy

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Detailed education in the history of navigation and great documentation woven in a personal journal..
Published 8 days ago by Elizabeth Keith


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gadget to Guide Us, Before GPS, May 13, 2014
This review is from: Sextant: A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans (Hardcover)
When I was at the Naval Academy nearly a half century ago, one of the courses, and it was a hard one, was Celestial Navigation, the use of a sextant, star almanacs, and charts to find out where a ship was located. From what I hear, midshipmen no longer study such things; it is easier, faster, and less liable to error to ask GPS where the ship is, and it is better to have the middies studying things they will actually use. David Barrie, a British sailor of yachts, probably knows about this curriculum change, and would not be happy about it. Sextants and celestial navigation are too important historically and philosophically and practically to let go. In the informative _Sextant: A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans_ (William Morrow), Barrie lets us know just how valuable sextants and star almanacs have been to him, and to humanity as it attempted the still-incomplete task of mapping our world.

There were primitive devices like the astrolabe or the cross staff by which the mariner might measure an angle toward a star, but the Scientific Revolution brought forth improved instruments in many fields. The genius of the design of the sextant is that looking through the eyepiece, the mariner can spy, because of a system of mirrors, both the horizon and the star in the sky whose height (altitude) is being measured. Once the index arm of the sextant is adjusted so that the star just touches the horizon, it is clamped in position, the sextant is removed from the eye, and the angle is read from the protractor-style arc at the sextant’s bottom. Throughout his book, Barrie quotes from his own sea adventure, sailing with a couple of pals across the Atlantic in 1973, when he learned many of the arts (and terrors and boredoms and deprivations) of seamanship including the use of the sextant. He also fills his book with the stories of far more famous sailors who set out to describe accurately the uncharted lands and waters. It is a surprise to find there are still uncharted regions; more than once Barrie tells us the charting is incomplete, as in reviewing the survey Captain FitzRoy attempted of Tierra del Fuego with only partial success: “Parts of the exposed southwestern coast of Tierra del Fuego remain uncharted to this day.” Some of the often grueling stories are about surveying voyages captained by sailors whose names we know, like Bligh and Shackleford; one captain we know mainly because the horticulturalist who travelled with him used his name for a flower discovered on the voyage, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, but his exploits deserve their own fame. Others were new to me, but all endured extremes of cold, heat, exhaustion, shipwreck, disease, cannibals, or scurvy just to make the world better known to its inhabitants. Lieutenant Pringle Stokes in 1827 was surveying the most dangerous parts of the Strait of Magellan, and made note of dangerous rocks, breakers, and reefs. He wrote, “The number and contiguity of the rocks, below as well as above water, render it a most hazardous place for any square-rigged vessel: nothing but the particular duty on which I was ordered would have induced me to venture among them.”

Barrie, who writes with clarity and enthusiasm, is a fan of celestial navigation the old way, and he makes a good case. GPS gives us an accurate location, but distances us from knowing where we are in that we don’t have to pay attention to our surroundings, the natural world, and the galaxy we live in. “By contrast,” he writes, “the practice of celestial navigation extends our skills and deepens our relationship with the universe around us.” To get a GPS fix, we have to have electrical power and receiving equipment that can fail. The GPS satellites themselves can be disabled and may be subject to being destroyed as an act of war. The signals can be jammed (and tracking signals are jammed sometimes by truckers who don’t want the company to know where they are), and when there is one-spot jamming, it jams the system for all of those around. Sailors who get a position by pushing a GPS button, Barrie says, are “denying themselves the precious rewards of agency - the use of hand, head, and eye to solve problems and overcome difficulties.” Besides, GPS can break in many different ways; we can count on Sun, Moon and stars to guide us whenever skies are clear.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tried and true navigation..., May 22, 2014
This review is from: Sextant: A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans (Hardcover)
Unlike the good ole days, sailors now rely primarily on GPS to pinpoint their position at sea, as opposed to more traditional methods like star charting and using the sextant. Thankfully there is a revived interest in traditional boat navigation and ... boatbuilding, which you can learn about in SS Rabl's Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard.

The Sextant reads like an autobiography, novel, and historical account all at once! Dangerous and wonderful adventures of famous sailors and pirates are sprinkled amongst a vivid history of the development and use of the "mariner's most prized possession". Barrie also has a personal story to tell about his experiences with the sextant, which even in our technological age, still has great value!

"What could be more wonderful than to join the line of those who have found their way across the seas by the light of sun, moon, and stars?" he asks. By the end of the book he had me and no doubt many readers asking this rhetorical question. This is an entertaining and enlightening read, which has opened my mind to a very respectable tool.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sea and the stars, June 15, 2014
By 
S. Atwood (Chandler, Arizona) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sextant: A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans (Hardcover)
This is a delightful book. David Barrie weaves together his own experiences at sea with accounts of some of history’s most fascinating maritime voyages and the development of navigational instruments. Barrie takes us to sea with Captain Cook, George Vancouver, Matthew Flinders, Robert Fitzroy and Sir Earnest Shackleton (among others), bringing their adventures and trials vividly to life. Sextant is a window onto an age of seemingly limitless possibility and exploration, peopled by courageous and innovative figures. While Barrie’s sea stories entertain, they also help to establish his central point, for above all, Sextant is a tribute to the eponymous instrument. For Barrie, the sextant is not merely a quaint nautical artifact, but an eminently useful device that both hones and challenges the sailor’s seamanship. Unlike modern nautical instruments, which reply on GPS and computerized data and can function almost independently, the sextant is useless without the sailor’s knowledge and experience; it requires his understanding of mathematics and astronomy to function successfully. Barrie’s own knowledge of celestial navigation enables him to provide accessible explanations of the often intricate necessary calculations and observations. The reader is left feeling great admiration for those sailors who have mastered this complex yet elegant art. Barrie acknowledges the value of modern navigational systems, yet he also recognizes what has been lost as a result of increased reliance on new technology. Barrie argues that sailors “are not only turning their backs on the very things that make the whole undertaking worthwhile, but they are also denying themselves the precious rewards of agency—the use of hand, head, and eye to solve problems and overcome difficulty.” Sextant is a strong argument for the value and importance, not only of traditional navigational skills, but of the many other traditional skills we are in danger of losing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth your time!, July 4, 2014
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
An excellently written narrative that combines the author's sea adventures with historical events of maritime accomplishments of truly outstanding heroics! Along the way, the sextant is a focal point described as it was used in the past and still used today. Well worth reading for those who love the sea or just vicariously travel it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book., July 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I really loved this book. The author did a fantastic job of weaving his own story in and out of the broader history that he was telling. It was very well written and insightful. A must read for fans of Longitude and similar books.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A history of navigation, December 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
David Barrie's "Sextant" is a nice answer to Sobel's "Longitude" from a nearly a generation ago. The "young man's daring sea voyage" refers to a trans-Atlantic crossing that Barrie made when he was about twenty. It's not all that interesting, hardly daring, and in any case it's second fiddle here to a very nice history of the great explorers and navigators of early modern British history, best exemplified by James Cook. The focus is on their navigational tools, not merely the sextant but also the mathematical methods that made it all possible, including the subject of lunars. This is a rather traditional history, and all of these stories have been told elsewhere in more detail, but Barrie's synthesis focusing on the science of navigation is unique. "Sextant" is loaded with excellent information, but there's no depth to the analysis here, and Barrie sometimes has a credulous faith in other people's research or their own spin on things. The writing style is easy-going and intelligent. Read Sobel's "Longitude" and read Barrie's "Sextant". Then average!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific minds adapt mathematical discoveries to obtain precise geographical positioning, October 29, 2014
By 
John Grimsrud (Merida, Yucatan, Mexico) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I loved this book that wove together the challenging stories of dedicated heroism.
This fascinating collection of stories bridges the centuries from ancient mariners to today’s push button global positioning.
Excerpts:
The practice of celestial navigation extends our skills and deepens our relationship with the universe around us.

Just as interest in classic boats, built in traditional ways and shaped only by the demands of beauty and seaworthiness, has undergone a revival, so the joys of navigating with a sextant are now ripe for rediscovery.

THE INVENTION OF the sextant allowed the navigator for the first time to attach a numerical value both precise and accurate to the height of a heavenly body above the horizon. It thereby opened up new realms of navigational possibility for Western seafarers. It was a brilliant product of technical ingenuity, but its use still depended on the observer’s own eyes…
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars you will like this book, February 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A well written story detailing the history of the sextant and the author's own transatlantic passage. If you are at all interested in celestial navigation and its history, you will like this book. A good companion to this book is "Hawaii by Sextant" by David Burch and Stephen Miller as it offers in-depth exercises in celestial navigation using real sextant sights and logbook entries on a voyage from Victoria Canada to Hawaii made in 1982. Both books let you experience what navigation was like before the era of GPS.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars and one learns what it must have been like for seafarers to navigate using a sextant, October 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book is a gem. The author combines elements of nautical history with personal adventures while bringing to light the importance of the sextant, an instrument now relegated to the scrap heap alongside the slide rule. The electronic devices that replaced them calculate more quickly and accurately. However, by removing the human element, we are left with cold precision and little romance.

The storytelling is exciting, and one learns what it must have been like for seafarers to navigate using a sextant. .
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars an insiight into the means of getting there, September 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This a very good book. It is well organized and covers the history of navigation well. Enough detail is given for understanding. This is backed up with men thou history that actually used the devices to locate their positions in the vast expanse of the oceans . If you like history this will help you to understand the ways and means of how those men did it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Sextant: A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans
$25.99 $19.70
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.