Bringing to life the instrument Victor Hugo called “the soul of the ship,” Alan Gurney writes a rich history of the most important navigational device of all time: the magnetic compass born out of the need for a reliable means of navigating the difficult sea routes. So indispensable to 16th-century seamen was this device that anyone found tempering with it had his hand pinned to the mast with a dagger. Though organized in loosely chronological order (with detours for particular people and events), the story begins with a modern maritime misadventure describing how when all the yacht’s high-tech navigational equipment failed, the crew had to rely on the stars. Covering a thousand years of ships, people, and events, Gurney’s story remains unfalteringly exciting and engaging.
Mr. Gurney does not forget the adventure, reward, and yes, danger that compelled man to explore in the first place. — Brendan Miniter (Wall Street Journal)

A colorful line of scientists, engineers and sailors [are] described by Gurney with a novelist’s eye for detail. — American Scientist

[An] engaging foray into vistas and voyages of the past. — Publishers Weekly

Fast-paced and informative, Compass is a worthy investment. — Raymond Leach (Virginian-Pilot)

[Gurney] tells—and clearly loves—marvelous stories of sailing and the sea. He has dug into diaries, logs, and historic accounts of catastrophic storms and battles, of the mortal perils of rocks and reefs. His sagas relate to the necessities and developments of navigation, but many are told almost cinematically. — Michael Pakenham (Baltimore Sun)