The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

Book - 2013
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Harvard University Press

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.

Long before GPS and Google Earth, humans traveled vast distances using environmental clues and simple instruments. What else is lost when technology substitutes for our innate capacity to find our way? Illustrated with 200 drawings, this narrative—part treatise, part travelogue, and part navigational history—brings our own world into sharper view.

Baker & Taylor
Explains a process of navigation that relies on natural phenomenon and describes techniques followed by ancient people involving the Sun, Moon, tides, currents, wind, and the horizon that can be used to determine direction and ensure arrival at a safe destination.

Book News
In beautifully clear writing, Huth (physics, Harvard U.) goes far beyond simply lamenting the fact that dependence on GPS technology undermines the inherent ability and the cultivated skills by which humans have navigated their surroundings in times past. His presentation includes urban myths of navigation and explores the observational skills that kick into action to find our way, what happens in the brain and in the mind and emotions when we get lost, and the gathering of information from stars, sun, moon, waves and tides, as well as the use of maps and compasses, among other topics. Kayakers, hikers, and anyone curious about how the mind does its mapwork will be intrigued and, perhaps, learn some life-saving information. Belknap Press is an imprint of Harvard U. Press. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013
ISBN: 9780674072824
Branch Call Number: 629.04509 H9758L 2013
Characteristics: 528 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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May 21, 2017

a real use for all the things you were supposed to learn in Earth Science!


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