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    Re: NavList Summer reading?
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2010 Jul 31, 17:20 +1000
    A short and eclectic list:

    1.  Mason AEW, 1943, The Life of Francis Drake, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

    2.  Göran Schildt, 1953, In the Wake of Ulysses, translated from Swedish into English by Alan Blair, my paperback published by Apollo Editions, New York, with a Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 53-8406.

    For those not familiar with Göran Schildt, who died in 2009, this obituary from a Finnish newspaper - in English - may serve as an introduction.
    I might add that for those with not familiar with Homer's prose poem, In the Wake of Ulysses makes for a good introduction to that, and also to sailing in the Mediterranean just after the 1939-1945 war.

    3.  Charles Allen, 1982, A Mountain in Tibet, subtitled The Search for Mount Kailas and the Sources of the Great Rivers of India.  My paperback published by Futura, of London & Sydney.

    For centuries Kailas remained an enigma to the outside world.  Then a succession of remarkable men took up the challenge of penetrating the hostile, frozen wastelands beyond the Western Himalayas, culminating in that great age of discovery, the final years of the Victorian era.  Quoted from the blurb on the back of the book.

    4.  Sven Hedin, 1909, Trans Himalaya, Macmillan and Co., London.

    This is a massive work that comes in two large hardbound volumes.  The author is also the subject of Chapter 9 of Charles Allen's book, as: Sven Hedin: Hero and Martyr.

    Like all books about navigation, these on Tibet make more sense if followed with a good map.  Some years ago I was looking for such a map of the area, in much greater detail than an atlas could provide.  After some searching I managed to find air-navigation charts, or rather a series of them, that answered the need.  If it was a dangerous place to explore in the Victorian era, from all the warnings about 'Restricted Airspace' adorning these charts it still was, at least for aircraft.

    I got as close to Tibet myself as it was possible in 1975, at the Nepalese road border between Nepal and Tibet.  There was no easy alternative to that road; just steep although densely-forested cliffs on all sides.  Its an interesting place in itself, as the river at the bottom of that gorge existed before the Himalayas were pushed up by the collision of the Indian sub-continent with Asia, not so long ago in geological terms, and the river just doggedly went on flowing its increasingly long way to the sea as these extraordinary mountains grew on either side.  The snow peaks were a long way above and out of sight.  Tibet was just as difficult, if not more of a challenge, to enter at that time than one hundred years earlier.

    Then after all these centuries of relative isolation, in the early 1980s the situation changed quite quickly.  As soon as I heard that it had become possible I started investigating just how this could be done then went through the visa, etc application procedures.  Full credit to my wife for her support, as we had small children at the time.  One problem was that the Chinese government would only recognise applications from groups.  I found another Australian in Sydney, a wandering freelance journalist with the same aim, and we formed a temporary union of convenience, since we went our separate ways once we got to Lhasa. 

    I wanted above all to travel across Tibet.  The only way in was by air. We took a flight from south-western China in an ancient Russian-built propeller-driven 1950s plane whose facilities included a domestic 1950s 'fridge, even though the only in-flight offering was cups of tea poured from a large tin teapot.  That plane might have been noisy and primitive but it flew at a much lower altitude than modern jets, across a series of deep heavily-forested gorges whose upper levels were snow-covered; the eastern end of Tibet.

    Everybody I had spoken to was pessimistic about my chances of travelling across the country.  So I had a return flight booked from Hong Kong, our Chinese entry point, as a visa condition.  From the time I got to Lhasa my main priority was organising onward travel.  To cut what could become a long story short, I did travel across Tibet by road, accompanied by my air-charts, then crossed the Himalayas and eventually exited at that same border into Nepal, which had changed greatly in less than a decade.  The trip home was also somewhat circuitous as I flew via Dakar in Bangladesh back to Hong Kong in order to use my ticket home.  Waste not, want not.

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