By Joe McGovern
May 16, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

Sextant

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type
  • Book
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Sailing aficionado Barrie focuses on the instantly recognizable but largely inscrutable navigational gadget and its role in globe-altering sea voyages over the past three centuries. The Oxford-educated author interweaves his own ripping account of an Atlantic crossing when he was 19 with historical stories of seamen such as James Cook and Beagle captain Robert FitzRoy — with his polite prose favoring the mariners’ acumen over their hot-tempered reputations. (The Bounty’s oft-bad-mouthed Captain Bligh gets his propers for surviving 4,000 miles of open ocean without charts.) But beneath the book’s calm surface churns a melancholic message about how the comfort of technology — symbolized by the sextant’s almighty antagonist, GPS — has turned our gaze away from the stars. A-

Sextant

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  • Sextant
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