The Lost Art of Finding Our Way (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

John Huth’s Lost Art of Finding Our Way is, as its title suggests, something of a guidebook: it included charts, maps, and graphs that helpfully explain things like wave formations, fata morgana (mirages in the distance), navigation by stars, and skills for judging distances. To some, this may sound dry, but it Huth’s curiosity about the world and his clear prose make this a delight to read.


— Sparks


Long before GPS, Google Earth, and global transit, humans traveled vast distances using only environmental clues and simple instruments. John Huth asks what is lost when modern technology substitutes for our innate capacity to find our way. Encyclopedic in breadth, weaving together astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, and ethnography, "The Lost Art of Finding Our Way" puts us in the shoes, ships, and sleds of early navigators for whom paying close attention to the environment around them was, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

Haunted by the fate of two young kayakers lost in a fogbank off Nantucket, Huth shows us how to navigate using natural phenomena the way the Vikings used the sunstone to detect polarization of sunlight, and Arab traders learned to sail into the wind, and Pacific Islanders used underwater lightning and read waves to guide their explorations. Huth reminds us that we are all navigators capable of learning techniques ranging from the simplest to the most sophisticated skills of direction-finding. Even today, careful observation of the sun and moon, tides and ocean currents, weather and atmospheric effects can be all we need to find our way.

Lavishly illustrated with nearly 200 specially prepared drawings, Huth's compelling account of the cultures of navigation will engross readers in a narrative that is part scientific treatise, part personal travelogue, and part vivid re-creation of navigational history. Seeing through the eyes of past voyagers, we bring our own world into sharper view.

About the Author

John Edward Huth is Donner Professor of Science in the Physics Department at Harvard University. Author's home: Cambridge, MA
Product Details
ISBN: 9780674072824
ISBN-10: 0674072820
Publisher: Belknap Press
Publication Date: May 15th, 2013
Pages: 544
Language: English