Book Review: Round About the Earth – Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit
Round About the Earth – Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit by Joyce E. Chaplin; Simon & Schuster; New York, New York; $35.00; 2012.
This is a fascinating and pleasurable look at explorers that have accomplished around-the-world travel.
For almost five hundred years, we human beings have been finding ways to circle the Earth – by ground, ocean, underwater, air, and space.
Yes, you’ll find Ferdinand Magellan, Francis Drake and James Cook – to name a few – but the reader will also hit upon informative pages about those that took to the skies to circuit our planet, be they air pilots or astronauts.
As is it is underscored on the book’s wrap around cover: “Through it all, the desire to take on the planet has tested the courage and capacity of the bold men and women who took up the challenge. Their exploits show us why we think of the Earth as home.”
To say that the planet has shrunk is too trivial a statement given the pervasiveness of public travel on a global scale. As the author explains, the technological wherewithal honed over the centuries have made feasible our circuiting of Earth.
But Joyce Chaplin also writes about the impact of planetary dominance by our movement about the world. We live with a trio of legacies of around-the-world travel: fear, confidence, and doubt. There is, she writes, “a reemerging fear that the planet could simply shrug us off; continuing confidence that we might be able to generate technologies and political alliances to dominate the planet; yet doubt that it is always wise to do so.”
The prize-winning author is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of History at Harvard University.
The book is dedicated to two circumnavigators “who reluctantly made history”: Enrique de Malacca, also known as “Henry the Black,” and may have been the first human to circle the Earth, and Laika, the Soviet Union’s pioneering space dog.
Round About the Earth is itself an impressive journey of insight about our voyaging on and off the planet.
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BTW: take a look at a video provided on the 500-year history of circumnavigation in three minutes.