Tracks in the Sea, by Chester G. Hearn, chronicles the quest of Matthew Fontaine Maury to "shape the course on voyages as to make the most of winds and currents at sea," thereby perfecting the "navigators art." The back cover of the book explains further that, "In a brilliant eighteen-year effort between 1842 and 1861 he transformed the oceans from trackless hazards into a network of highways marked by dependable winds and currents and showed shipmasters how to shave weeks and even months from voyages."
We both enjoyed this book for its wonderful mixture of science, geography, sailing, commerce, rivalry and ambitions with history written in a story format that we couldn't put down. The book tells how careful observations and coordination of endless bits of data related to sea temps, depths, wind direction and speed, currents and general weather were gathered from observations made by many seafaring captains. The author relates how Maury solicited the collection of this data from commercial and military ships and then synthesized the information into useable maps. Maury's desire was to develop a mapping system that would be readily available and accurate for mariners' use.
This is a nice book to add to any sailor's collection. It will truly give you an appreciation for the origins of our modern maps. Our fancy schmancy GPS's are amazing, but probably not nearly as monumental an accomplishment as these original maps of the seas.