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Round About the Earth - Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit

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  • United States
  • English

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For almost five hundred years, human beings have been finding ways to
circle the Earth-by sail, steam, or liquid fuel; by cycling, driving,
flying, going into orbit, even by using their own bodily power. The
story begins with the first centuries of circumnavigation, when few
survived the attempt: in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan left Spain with five
ships and two hundred and seventy men, but only one ship and thirty-five men returned, not
including Magellan, who died in the Philippines. Starting with these
dangerous voyages, Joyce Chaplin takes us on a trip of our own as we
travel with Francis Drake, William Dampier, Louis-Antoine de
Bougainville, and James Cook.
Eventually sea travel grew much
safer and passengers came on board. The most famous was Charles Darwin,
but some intrepid women became circumnavigators too-a Lady Brassey, for
example. Circumnavigation became a fad, as captured in Jules Verne's
classic novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.
Once
continental railroads were built, circumnavigators could traverse sea
and land. Newspapers sponsored racing contests, and people sought ways
to distinguish themselves-by bicycling around the world, for instance,
or by sailing solo. Steamships turned round-the-world travel into
a luxurious experience, as with the tours of Thomas Cook & Son.
Famous authors wrote up their adventures, including Mark Twain and Jack
London and Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (better known as Nellie Bly). Finally
humans took to the skies to circle the globe in airplanes. Not much
later, Sputnik, Gagarin, and Glenn pioneered a new kind of
circumnavigation- in orbit. 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. Round About the Earth is itself a thrilling adventure.
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