Valdosta Daily Times

April 22, 2013

BOOKS: ROUND ABOUT THE EARTH

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Subtitled “Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit,” Joyce E. Chaplin’s book, “Round About the Earth,” looks at trips around the world. She joins 16th century explorer Ferdinand Magellan on his fateful and fatal circumnavigation and presses onto the space age as humanity jumped from taking years to circle the globe to orbiting the earth repeatedly in the span of one earthbound day. Originally, circumnavigation led to high death tolls among the explorer crews, but as more trips were made, the fatality rate dropped. Sea captains experimented to spare their crews from scurvy. As the years and leagues passed, people improved the life support systems of ships. Chaplin writes of world travelers’ amazement that they were a day off upon their returns home, despite their best measures to count the days, because of the international date line. As world travel became safer and better understood, circumnavigation moved from being a national endeavor funded by governments to a commercial endeavor funded by the public’s purchase of tickets. Written accounts of world travel became best sellers as did imagined trips. Jules Verne’s novel, “Around the World in 80 Days,” was not only a favorite read but inspired individuals to meet or beat the fictional Phileas Fogg’s time by boat, train, elephant, etc. As people made the trip faster by land and sea, the rise of aviation made circumnavigation faster still. Space travel again increased the danger of circling the globe but cut the time of circumnavigation down to the time of what would have been considered the supernatural in Magellan’s day. An informative, detailed read.