A sea captain’s beautifully written tour of our planet, our oceans, and our ever-changing atmosphere
What’s in a cloud? Did you know that water vapor is invisible and actually lighter than dry air? What separates a tropical storm from a winter blizzard? And what exactly is El Niño? Elliot Rappaport, a professional captain of traditional sailing ships, has spent three decades at sea, where understanding weather is crucial to the safety of vessels and their crews. In Reading the Glass, he offers a sailor’s-eye view of the moving parts of our atmosphere and unveils the larger patterns it holds: global winds, storms, air masses, jet streams, and the longer arc of our climate.
Told through a series of tall ship voyages, Rappaport’s narrative takes readers from the icy seas of Greenland to the Roaring Forties, places where one can experience all four seasons in an hour. He navigates the turbulent waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, en route to storied port cities of the Mediterranean. In the vast tropical Pacific he crosses the equator, where heat, moisture, and unsettled winds churn out powerful squalls, and drops anchor in isolated ports of call. He explores wide swathes of ocean to explain how the trade winds have carried ships westward for centuries, and how ancient Polynesian explorers pushed back the other way, leveraging their mastery of waves and weather to achieve what may be humanity's greatest navigational achievement.
Written in stunning prose, brimming with wisdom, curiosity, and humor, Reading the Glass brilliantly blends science and memoir to reveal how weather has shaped our oceans, our history, and ourselves.
* This audiobook includes a downloadable PDF containing maps and diagrams from the book.
Ship photo courtesy of Sea Education Association (SEA), Woods Hole, MA.