Select one of the keywords
Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit    by Joyce E. Chaplin order for
Round About the Earth
by Joyce E. Chaplin
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

In Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit, Joyce Chaplin offers a comprehensive look at the history of circling the globe. Going back 500 years, Chaplin begins with Magellan's journey (the Portuguese explorer didn't actually complete the trip but some of his crew did) as well as the adventures of Francis Drake, Jacob Le Maire, William Dampier and Captain Bligh (he didn't make it all the way around either!)

These early voyages were costly since the loss of human lives was extremely high. Magellan left port with five ships and 275 sailors but only one ship and 39 men returned. The numbers were worse for Dampier; he lost both his ships and only 18 of his 183 crewmen survived.

Besides losses caused by encounters with hostile natives, accidents and the quirks of Mother Nature, scurvy was the major cause of death on these voyages. Once the mariners improved their shipboard diet, the mortality rates changed quite radically. For example, on James Cook's first journey he lost 40 out of 96 men, but on his second round-the-world cruise only six sailors didn't survive out of a crew of 232.

The first person accounts of those who survived these dangerous adventures were published and became the best sellers of the time, thus tempting even more individuals to attempt the perilous trips.

Eventually the idea of exploration and discovering new routes around the globe gave way to seeing how quickly one could actually make the trip. With the development of other modes of transportation (steamships, trains, autos and better roads, airplanes, etc.), the challenge was often rewarded by a monetary prize.

The dangers of such a trip were not as great, but the novel experiences that the person experienced coupled with the exposure to different cultures made it something that armchair travels enjoyed reading about. Thus, books like Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days became international best sellers.

Chaplin provides accounts of numerous individuals - from sailors and aviators to astronauts - who have circled the globe over the centuries. There has always been an element of danger involved, although it isn't as great as in the earliest days, but the excitement and novelty of such a trip hasn't really dissipated. We are as interested in these exploits today as were people centuries ago. Whether they travel on a bicycle or in small sailboat, balloon or space vehicle, there are those who still circumnavigate the Earth. And, as in the past, there are still plenty of us who enjoy reading about their experiences.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Travel books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews