AirTalk for July 10, 2012

Ancient mariners and the quest to master the ocean

Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans

Long before Columbus, land-bound civilizations stood on the shore and gazed across the waters, wondering what lay beyond. Over 50,000 years ago the first explorers set out for those distant shores, piloting bamboo canoes across the Java Sea, guided by nothing but the stars.

The urge to go to sea has become a rite of passage for every coastal civilization since then; to set foot on a new land, bring home its treasures, conquer the waves and live to tell the tale. Brian Fagan’s new book takes us along on those ancient journeys, mapping centuries of water routes, letting us hear the creak of the mast and feel the slap of water against our boat. From Aleut seal hunters to Phoenician traders, from Chinese merchants to Norse fishermen, all succumbed to the urge to see what’s over the horizon.

How did ancient mariners find their way before navigational instruments? How did they perfect their vessels and develop their seafaring skills? What led them to risk everything in the search for new worlds?

GUEST

Brian Fagan, author of "Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans" (Bloomsbury Press); emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His previous books include "Elixir: A History of Water" and "Cro-Magnon."


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