Piracy, Turtles and Flying Foxes
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Dampier's (1651-1715) adventures and writing inspired both Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels, but in his own right he was a remarkable, observant and enjoyable writer - whether on a woefully mishandled pirate raid in Spanish America or on a desperate journey to Sumatra in an open boat or on the habits of manatees or bats. He also left the first description in English of the Aborigines of Australia - thus initiating a painful, now three centuries' long encounter between peoples on opposite sides of the world.
Great Journeys allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries – but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways from our own. Few reading experiences can begin to match that of engaging with writers who saw astounding things: Great civilisations, walls of ice, violent and implacable jungles, deserts and mountains, multitudes of birds and flowers new to science. Reading these books is to see the world afresh, to rediscover a time when many cultures were quite strange to each other, where legends and stories were treated as facts and in which so much was still to be discovered.
- Penguin Books Ltd, February 2007
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