☀ You can borrow and read Off the Map free below. ☀
“Narrative historian” Fergus Fleming makes these adventure tales come alive. Reaching from the 13th century when Marco Polo traveled into the heart of the Mongol Empire, to 1928 when Umberto Nobile flew his airship (blimp) over the North Pole, Off the Map is divided into three sections.
adventure tales from three ages of exploration
The Age of Reconnaissance is when explorers set forth to figure out “Where are we?” Here are the voyages of Columbus, Magellan, da Gama, Hudson, and more.
During The Age of Inquiry, exploration was driven by the spirit of scientific inquiry: measuring the world, climbing Mont Blanc, investigating the Arctic, the Antarctic, Timbuctoo, the interior of South America….
The Age of Endeavour looks at explorations of the Victorian Age, when the conviction that England, especially, could do anything led to prodigious efforts, which brought the benefits of national prestige, commercial profit, and seeing one’s name in the paper. Some of the accomplishments of this era: crossing Australia, crossing the Sahara, searching for the source of the Nile, skiing to the North Pole, and trying to get there via balloon.
It’s entertaining to learn the details that don’t make it into the usual historical accounts, for instance what really happened when Stanley found Livingstone, or the mistakes and challenges that beset the Lewis and Clark expedition:
The Corps left Fort Clatsop on 23 March 1806. Their trade goods were near exhausted, consisting of 11 ‘robes’ (five of which were made out of a flag), an artillery officer’s coat and hat, plus a length of ribbon. As for their trinkets, ‘Two handkercheifs would not contain all the small articles of merchandize which we possess.’ They were too impoverished to buy a canoe for the return trip up the Columbia so, reluctantly, they stole one. It carried them as far as the rapids, whereupon they bought horses — at an extortionate price — and made their way to the Nez Percé settlements. Here they found themselves financially embarrassed. Without the means to pay for their food, Clark set up surgery, accepting payment in kind for medical treatment. He had very few drugs, and those he dispensed were usually placebos. He did, however, have a doctor’s authority, and his patients seemed on the whole to appreciate his ministrations. He scored a notable success when he constructed a steam bath with which he cured a chief who was paralysed from the neck down. His medical fees, coupled with the sale of the brass buttons from their jackets, kept the Corps fed for several months.
There are several dozen pages of illustrations that do not come through well in the epub version. So if you want the illustrations, you’ll want to read it with a decent-size screen, either online using the Internet Archive’s built-in BookReader, or by downloading a pdf. See Borrowing Basics for more info.
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