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Below the Convergence: Voyages Towards Antarctica, 1699-1839 [Hardcover]

Alan Gurney
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

16 April 1997
The image of a huge southern continent has haunted the imaginations of geographers throughout history. Not until the second of his great voyages in 1773 did Captain James Cook lay the theory to rest. This book tells the story of British, American and Russian expeditions, from the astronomer Edmond Halley's voyage in the "Paramore" in 1699 to the sealer John Balleny's 1839 voyage in the "Eliza Scott", in search of land, fur and elephant seals. These voyages were taken for science, profit and national prestige. Life was incredibly harsh, and often the seamen had to make their own charts as they navigated the stormy waters below the Convergance. The book desribes their attempts to discover and exploit the new continent, which was not the verdant land imagined, but an inhospitable expanse of rock and ice, ringed by pack ice and icebergs - the land of Antarctica.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; 1 edition (16 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393039498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393039498
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 892,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
As a land-lubber I didn't know whether I would enjoy this book, but after completing it today (31st Dec 1998), I find myself contemplating the Antarctic summer! The book is scientifically very sound on many technical subjects, but will delight all readers. The sailor, naval architect, historian, naturalist, marine surveyor, and navy-man will particularly appreciate the erudition of Mr. Gurney. No-one will feel left-out! Mr.Gurney has taken the cream of perhaps 200-250 books and condensed it into a single superbly written volume. Save yourself the reading and read this one volume; it is very well constructed and will whet the appetite for perhaps further literary exploration or even real exploration (or at least maybe (ahem) "soft exploration" aboard a southern cruise-ship). I particularly liked the hand-drawn maps at the back although I know nothing about land-surveying. Let's hope that Mr. Gurney will produce further works like this one which greatly enhanced my knowledge in many areas. By the way, the title of book was meaningless to me before I read it, and I think the author could have chosen a more "saleable" title, because the book will be loved by many who don't have a clue what this is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very witty, entertaining read, which will appeal to all. 31 Dec 1998
By Eduardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a land-lubber I didn't know whether I would enjoy this book, but after completing it today (31st Dec 1998), I find myself contemplating the Antarctic summer! The book is scientifically very sound on many technical subjects, but will delight all readers. The sailor, naval architect, historian, naturalist, marine surveyor, and navy-man will particularly appreciate the erudition of Mr. Gurney. No-one will feel left-out! Mr.Gurney has taken the cream of perhaps 200-250 books and condensed it into a single superbly written volume. Save yourself the reading and read this one volume; it is very well constructed and will whet the appetite for perhaps further literary exploration or even real exploration (or at least maybe (ahem) "soft exploration" aboard a southern cruise-ship). I particularly liked the hand-drawn maps at the back although I know nothing about land-surveying. Let's hope that Mr. Gurney will produce further works like this one which greatly enhanced my knowledge in many areas. By the way, the title of book was meaningless to me before I read it, and I think the author could have chosen a more "saleable" title, because the book will be loved by many who don't have a clue what this is.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sailing over a cetacean kingdom 26 Mar 2000
By Iain Orr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The subject-matter may seem a narrow historical theme but the great joy of this book is how well it relates to wider concerns and themes. It is superbly written (as well as being an excellent example of a well-produced book, with apposite text illustrations, maps and a good index). The passage on pp 59 to 61 of the ecology of the Southern Ocean gives a succinct and witty account of the food-chain and ends with a paragraph in celebration of the whales that have survived (just) the whalers which followed in the wake of the great discoverers. There are accounts to appeal to island-lovers of the earliest contacts with the wonderful remote islands of the Southern Ocean. Readers of The Times (London) will find good historial material here about Kerguelen (Desolation) Island to which one of the paper's best columnists (Matthew Parris) has just set off. No surprise to me that the author, Alan Gurney lives on a lovely and historic Scottish island, Islay. Read his book with a fine malt whisky from Islay close to hand. You can then regularly toast the many fine descriptive passages (both his own and in quotations from his sources, which he uses with great skill) and his narrative skill in telling an exciting story.
5.0 out of 5 stars BELOW THE CONVERGENCE : VOYAGE TOWARDS ANTARTICA 1699-1839 3 Dec 2013
By ALBERTO NAVARRO - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
THIS BOOK COVERS A PERIOD OF 140 YEARS OF VOYAGES TO THE FAR SOUTH, BETWEEN 1699 BY
THE ASTRONOMER EDMOND HALLEY IN THE PARAMOUNT AND 1839 BY JOHN BALLENY IN THE ELIZA SCOTT.
THE CONVERGENCE IS A MARITIME BORDER LOCATED BETWEEN THE PARALLELS 50 AND 60 OF SOUTH LATITUDE,
IN WHICH THE RELATIVELY TEMPERATE SUBANTARTIC WATERS GAVE WAY TO THE FROZEN ANTARTIC WATERS,
ALSO KNOWN AS THE SOUTHERN OCEAN,IN WHICH THE TEMPERATURE DROPPED SHARPLY.
THE FIRST EXPLORER TO CROSS THE ANTARTIC CIRCLE WAS THE GLORIOUS BRITISH EXPLORER JAMES COOK,
IN 1773,IN THE RESOLUTION.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! 24 May 2013
By Sugar Smookler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Gave as a gift & it's a winner! The author is the designer of the original "Islander 36" sailboat from California.
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the South Atlantic before Shackelton,Scott and Amundsen 19 Jan 2011
By Thomas Erickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading about the Antarctic explorers Shackleton , Scott, and Amundsen (5 star books), I wanted more information about previous Antarctic and deep South Atlantic Ocean explorers.

Below the Convergence by Alan Gurney is a fascinating read. For me a real page burner. Lots of interesting material. My favorite chapter was about Captain James Cook. Here was a really great nautical man, highly intelligent and thoughtful for his men's safety. Back in the late 1700s the English Royal Navy still used some brutal methods for crew compliance. Also the dreaded "plaque of the seas" scurvy was not understood.

Even though the need for Vitamin C ( Ascorbic acid) was not known, Captain Cook realized eating fresh greens, lemon juice and certain plants and fresh meats helped keep scurvy away. Eating sour kraut and lime juice too ( not as good against scurvy as lemon juice). He was proud that none of the men on his ship Resolution developed scurvy after eating a diet rich in then unknown vitamin C. Captain Cook becomes a hero of the Royal navy with his explorations. He seems to be on the fast track to becoming an Admiral but is horribly hacked to pieces during an attack by natives on his third circumnavigation. One of the greatest explorers and British Royal Navy heroes.

We see explorers like Edmond Halley( astronomer too.. Halley's comet) and his Pink Paramore ship. Also Weddell and Brisbane and John Biscoe, Kemp, Balleny and Ross as well as a Russian explorer. Many were sealers and whalers who went deep south for the riches of seal furs, and oil. Millions of seals killed with no conservation of a limited resource. Some seals hunted almost to extinction. A fascinating account of seal, penguin and whale slaughter. The animals were needed for furs and oil but absolutely no conservation.Horrible vast indiscriminate slaughter.

There was reference to Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle. Interesting, so I bought that book on Amazon also. Reading it now.

The big hold back on accurate long distance sea navigation for centuries was getting the right longitude. Money prizes were given out for developing accurate methods. Both lunar methods and chronograph watches developed. We see the eventual improvements of being able to find different islands and better charts with improved longitude readings.

Alan Gurney did a great job of giving a history of exploration south of the convergence zone from 1699-1839. Anyone interested in Antarctic exploration, and the different animals encountered in the deep southern Atlantic Ocean will like this book. Some great maps showing the routes the various explorers/sealers/Royal Navy/ / merchant marine members went as well as some interesting b/w pictures. A great book. 5 stars
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