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Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories [Kindle Edition]

Simon Winchester
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The epic life story of the Atlantic Ocean from the bestselling author, Simon Winchester

In a narrative tour de force, Simon Winchester dramatises the life story of the Atlantic Ocean, from its birth in the farther recesses of geological time to its eventual extinction millions of years in the future.

At the core of the book is the story of mankind's complex relationship with this immense sea, which stretches for 9,000 miles from pole to pole. The Atlantic has profoundly influenced the lives of those who have lived along its shores, from hardscrabble pioneers in windswept locations such as the Aran Islands and Newfoundland, to the inhabitants of the great port cities of Lisbon, Rio, London and New York.

‘Atlantic’ brings to life key episodes in this compelling human drama - the age of exploration and the subsequent colonisation of the Americas; the flourishing of transatlantic commerce and the rise and fall of the slave trade; extraordinary tales of sea-borne emigration during the nineteenth century; and the great naval battles that have left an indelible imprint on Atlantic history.

Travelling by small sailing craft, container ship and general cargo vessel, Simon Winchester will journey around the edges and across the vast expanse of the ocean to report from the places that encapsulate its most fascinating stories. It is an enthralling mixture of history, science and reportage from a master of narrative non-fiction, and the definitive account of this magnificent body of water.

Product Description


'Winchester unfolds this epic narrative with admirable simplicity: his prose style is conversational, and crackles with strange images. He marries even-handed scholarship with a gift for storytelling, neither dumbing down nor assuming any specific knowledge in his readership. This is from start to finish an enthralling book, and one that does justice to the magnitude of its subject' Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times

'Illuminating…a] wonderful, encyclopaedic book, pinpointing key moments in the narrative of an entire ocean and our relationship to it' Philip Hoare, Sunday Telegraph

‘[A] fabulous book’ Scotsman

‘An engaging account’ Mail on Sunday

‘[Winchester] is maddeningly gifted … a rollicking ride’ Washington Post

‘Enjoyable and richly informative’ Telegraph


Reviews for Krakatoa 'Bracingly apocalyptic stuff: atmospheric, chock full of information and with a constantly escalating sense of pace and tension' Sunday Telegraph 'Gripping. Takes us right to the heart of the worst natural disaster in recorded history. Winchester makes an excellent companion' Daily Telegraph 'Splendid. Lively, pacy, riveting. We learn a great deal and Winchester, storyteller to the core, wears his erudition lightly' Spectator 'Winchester proves himself not just a fine researcher and storyteller, but also a gifted stylist. He is the perfect narrator for such a catastrophe' Observer

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1428 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (17 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0044DE992
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #66,079 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Simon Winchester studied Geology at Oxford University. He is the author of 'Atlantic','A Crack in the Edge of the World', 'Krakatoa', 'The Map That Changed the World', 'The Professor and the Madman', 'The Fracture Zone', 'Outposts', 'Korea', among many other titles. He lives in Massachusetts and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge subject admirably dealt with 3 Oct. 2010
Simon Winchester adds to his growing ouevre and reputation with this enthralling and fascinating book. What could have been a daunting read is made simple and enjoyable by the author's chatty and good humoured style - you get the impression that he would be a fine companion over a pint or two. This is not just a geographic study though. Historical and social aspects of the ocean are admirably dealt with the voyages of discovery, slavery and environmental issues all being covered in some depth. There are many interesting and diverting stories in this book and all in all I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Colourful stories in historical context 5 Mar. 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Simon Winchester is a story teller and a romantic - historical context, detail and colour brings this book to life. He dedicates the book to Able Seaman Angus Campbell McIntyre who was shipwrecked in 1942 on the notorious coast of Namibia in the South Atlantic in a failed attempt to rescue survivors from the SS Dunedin who had been similarly shipwrecked. Stories like this abound.

But he paints on a wider canvas to describe the importance of the Atlantic over the years - an ocean that with today's air travel does not have a high profile. For example parliamentary democracy as it is understood today was very much an Atlantic creation. No such institutions arose in Russia or China or Greece. The Icelandic Rock of Laws set the pattern for governance of the rest of the world, mimicked by the Faroe Islands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Britain.

He approaches the Atlantic from all angles, from its early exploration to pirates and the slave trade; from sea battles through the ages to commerce; from the laying of the transatlantic cable and air routes across the ocean to climate change, ocean currents and receding ice cap.

The question of what motivated men to make the dangerous voyage into the Atlantic before America was "discovered" is answered by fish and whales. He makes a convincing case that the Norsemen created settlements in Newfoundland and Labrador between 975 and 1020 AD. The allure of fish, and specifically cod, drew the Vikings and the Basques as well as John Cabot who named Newfoundland before the imperial claims made by Christopher Colombus in 1492.

The technical tribulations of the USS Niagra and HMS Agamemnon in laying 2,500 miles of transatlantic cable in 1857 is ascribed as the most ambitious construction project ever envisaged in the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Jump into the Atlantic 22 Jun. 2012
By R Helen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I actually found this book quite interesting. There are a lot of things to like about Simon Winchester's "Atlantic." First off, the structure of the book is quite creative. Winchester has adapted the "All the world's a stage" speech from Shakespeare's "As You Like It." Each of Shakespeare's seven stages of a man's life, from infant until second childishness, is used to examine the stages in the life of the ocean. We see the ocean born and eventually die, just as a man does. And we see all its stages in between, as man discovers, explores, interprets, uses and then misuses this grand ocean we call the Atlantic.

Second, Winchester's ocean really is "a vast ocean of a million stories," and most of them are fascinating. While I enjoyed the historical chapters, more than the geological ones, Winchester has put together a book that covers nearly every aspect of interest. I was amazed to see that so much of our modern world today has grown and developed in and around the Atlantic Ocean. I did not know, for example, the "hidden story" of the eventual creation of the State of Israel. The Royal Navy's need for acetone led Chaim Weizmann, who had developed a special technique to create the substance, to come into favour with such figures as the future Prime Minister David Lloyd George and his foreign secretary Arthur Balfour. The rest of course is history and we all know how important the Balfour Declaration was in Israel's eventual independence. But "Atlantic" is filled with such stories.

Third, Winchester is just a great writer and knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. I was endlessly amazed at all the things he's done and the places he's been.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vastness 19 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Simon Winchester has taken the Atlantic ocean and its coast lines and drawn a picture of history across it. Imagine if you can, because I couldn't before I read it. From the beginning when ships first dared to sail far enough to discover the world was not flat. The action and importance of the ocean during the WWars, the life of the people through time living on the coasts of Africa and America and other small islands. If you're interested in history from another angle this is for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a Marvellous Story! 14 Aug. 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a really excellent book on a vast subject. Simon takes The Atlantic Ocean and explains its inception eons of ages ago right up to the present day. He tells of the earliest marine life that started in its depths and crawled out of the water onto the land and became the mammals and birds that we know today. With the coming of Man he explains how - from the first tentative journeys of The Vikings to Greenland and Newfoundland to the giant fishing factory ships of today - we have irrevocably changed the ocean for ever in our endless search for more and more at the expense of what there is available. The most famous example of this was the tragedy of The Grand Banks off Newfoundland and the crash of the cod industry. At one time there had been so many fish that the boats did not need to use nets, they could put buckets over the sides and they would come up full to overflowing. With the coming of the factory ships they were fished almost to extinction and today any fishing is banned in that area of the sea.

He also tells of shipwrecks and oil spillages, freak weather conditions, world wars and treasure ships that are still down there. The coming of the telegraph and then radio needed ships that could lay the giant cables that were required and it took many months to complete this operation. With the coming of air travel the great ocean liners that carried hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Europe to the US to start a new life are a relic of their former glory - did you know that the derivation of the word "liner" comes from the fact that the great ships would line up to leave port on their
transatlantic journeys back in late Victorian times.

There is so much fascinating information and stories to be had in this book that it will keep you enthralled for days - I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the sea and everything related to it and its surroundings.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes a pleasant splash
A slightly forced concept, but this contains a multitude of well-told tales which make for enjoyable reading
Published 1 month ago by ulbrich
2.0 out of 5 stars a disappointing and rather pointless read
A disappointing and rather pointless read. Obviously researched to death and then coddled together in an unconvincing mish mash of history and trivia.
Published 1 month ago by fairwinds
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good bargain, promptly despatched.
Published 4 months ago by roger richardson
4.0 out of 5 stars But Winchester is an excellent writer and communicator
Ambitious in it's scale, and a fascinating concept to write a biography of an ocean, this does generally deliver. Read more
Published 8 months ago by DotingDad
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
An excellent and informative read. I can well imagine searching out other books by this author.
Published 9 months ago by P.J. SANDALL
5.0 out of 5 stars Simon never disappoints
Atlantic lived up to my expectations with a gripping account of many facets of the Atlantic. Typical of Simon Winchester, it was difficult to put down once I started Chapter... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ken Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read on an unusual subject.
Simon Winchester really knows how to tell a good story. Although some of the chapters appear a bit laboured overall it was a good read and quite informative.
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Atlantic
Krakatoa was vastly entertaining and informative and Atlantic comes up to the same high standard. It's a book to treasure.
Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic Ocean
What an interesting concept writing a book about the history of an Ocean? It works well because Simon Winchester is able to combine geomorphology and human history so well together... Read more
Published on 30 May 2013 by Nico
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent history of the atlantic
Even just to dip into Atlantic you are given a brilliantly told history of man and this ocean, whether talking of how the first humans ever to settle did so at the tip of Africa in... Read more
Published on 9 April 2013 by Mr. Robert Marsland
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