Sextant: A Voyage Guided by the Stars and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans

By David Barrie

In the tradition of Dava Sobel’s ‘Longitude’ comes sailing expert David Barrie’s compelling and dramatic tale of invention and discovery – an eloquent elegy to one of the most important navigational instruments ever created, and the daring mariners who used it to explore, conquer, and map the world.

This is the dramatic story of an instrument that changed history. Built around David Barrie’s own transatlantic passage using the very same navigational tools as Captain Cook, Sextant tells how one of the most vital navigational instruments was invented and used – and why the golden age of celestial navigation has now come to an end. From Cook, Bligh and Vancouver to Bougainville, La Pérouse, Flinders and FitzRoy, Barrie recounts the fortunes of the explorers who risked their lives in charting the Pacific, as well as the intrepid adventures of Slocum, Shackleton and Worsley. A heady mix of history, science and adventure, this elegy to a lost technology is infused with the wonder of discovery and the sublimity of the cosmos.

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 04 Jun 2015
Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-0-00-751658-2
David Barrie was for many years in the Diplomatic Service. He has held many distinguished posts since then. He is a passionate and dedicated sailor and was inspired to write this book in homage to the remarkable people who brought celestial navigation to perfection, and to the generations of mariners who put the sextant to such good use in charting the world’s oceans. This is his first book. He lives in West London.

‘As lovingly and painstakingly constructed as the navigators’ one irreplaceable talisman, this exquisite book is a hymn to a now-vanishing feature of maritime life, a finely-chased reminder of just how much we all owe to that one small piece of apparatus, its verniers and lenses kept secure in a mahogany box, closed by a hasp of brass’ Simon Winchester -

”'Barrie’s writing is exhilarating and suffused with a sense of adventure. A fascinating read” - Financial Times

”'What gives Sextant its special colour is Barrie’s own experience as a sailor … His book is an elegy for the days before GPS made simultaneous geniuses and idiots of us all … He invites anyone near the sea, and above all on a boat, to turn away from their screens and look around” - Daily Express

”'A bracing historical tale” - The Times

”'An excellent present for anyone even vaguely interested in thestars, or the history of exploration, or sailing small boats overbig oceans, or come to think of it anyone at all. And buy a copyfor yourself while you’re about it” - Marine Quarterly

”'A joy to read … one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I’ve read in years” - Flying Fish, magazine of the Ocean Cruising Club