Finding North: A Quest to Human Navigation

Title               : Finding North: How Navigation Makes Us Human

Author           : George Michelsen Foy

Publisher       : Flatiron Books New York

Year                : 2016

Reviewer. : Faiza Nur Sabrina

“Every great story starts with fear”

That must be the most suitable words to describe every  greatest story of all time, including whats in this book. 

Finding North is a great combination of scientific findings about the nature of human navigation which also wrapped beautifully with personal prose. Engaging and compelling, Foy brings us the most important case for our today’s navigational challenges. From the history of our ancestors through today’s navigational development, we – humans – might have already been lost our navigational ability that also made up our memory. 

Foy takes us from his very personal experience, when he had not knowing the true position when he took a late-night drive from New York to Massachusetts. When he stopped by in a rest area to slept for awhile, he woke up in a great fear knowing that he couldn’t identified his place. For a moment, he lost his bearings toward the landscape around him. Now looking back at that moment, he realized that navigation is playing a major role in humans life, with or without our consciousness. Its not an exaggeration to say that Navigation is a prime expression of living – to understand where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going. Navigation is so basic and so present at all levels of humans life – that we might tend to took it for granted. We navigate when we want to go to our friend’s house, when we go from bedroom to kitchen, when we trying to find the exit door at the mall, when we search for an old e-mail… etc. These all kinds of navigation were formed by evolution thousand years ago, ever since our ancestors fought for food in a vast-wild dessert in Africa. Scientific findings prove that navigation is even going hand in hand with one of our brain function: memory. Navigation and  memory centers in our brain perform a suite calculations of distance and time, recognizing landmarks and giving us senses of space and time. And with today’s advanced technology in GPS (Global Positioning System), we tend to rely on it so much until we almost lost our own ability in navigating the landscape around us. Based on some advanced research, this condition can lead into some serious diseases such as Alzheimer. The shocking fact that very few of us are aware about, should have make us rethink about the impact of technology towards our natural ability in navigation as well as memory – things that makes us human. 

Beside the scientific side of navigation, Foy also bring with it his family’s personal story of failure in navigation. It dates back to the time when his great great grandfather – Halvor Michelsen was perished at sea. Halvor Michelsen was a captain of a Norwegian cargo ship named Stavanger Paquet. In the year of 1800’s, Halvor worked as a skipper to deliver Herring from Norway to German. On that fatal night, he was drowned because of snowstorm that caught him down with his ship. Driving by his fear, personal obsession with navigation and family’s story, Foy decides to re-create his ancestor’s trip using old instrument like sextant and almanac. His journey in modeling the trip was not only to unravel the mystery of Halvor’s death and honor his legacy, but also to discover the true importance of navigation for human. The journey proved worth to take and well documented in this book. A warm, beautiful and intelligent writings to be read and reflect. 

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