I’m a keen sailor and navigator, and I’ve written a book about the history of human celestial navigation and exploration. I’m also fascinated by animal behaviour, a subject I studied at university.
Researching Incredible Journeys (Supernavigators in North America) enabled me for the first to combine these two great interests. And it’s been a wonderful journey of discovery!
Of course my main aim was to share the amazing things I learned with my readers, but I also wanted to celebrate the ingenuity, skill and dedication of the scientists who are unravelling the mysteries of animal navigation.
My research took me right round the world and gave me the chance to interview many of the leading experts in the field of animal navigation studies, and to witness some fascinating experiments at first hand.
Incredible Journeys reveals the extraordinary variety of tools that animals - as diverse as ants, beetles, moths, butterflies, lobsters, birds, sea turtles, bats and fish - use to find their way around.
These include landmarks, the light of the sun, moon and stars, the earth’s magnetism, sounds and smells - and even electric fields. Many great mysteries remain - not least how exactly animals detect and make use of the earth’s magnetic field.
Incredible Journeys also explores the discoveries of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists who are investigating the brain circuitry that enables animals - including us humans - to navigate. To stay healthy, these circuits need to be exercised - and that means there are risks in relying just on our electronic gadgets to find our way around.
Incredible Journeys raises profound questions about our rapidly changing relationship with the world around us. While indigenous peoples like the Inuit of Arctic Canada or the islanders of the Pacific Ocean can still navigate without so much as a map or compass, most of us city-dwellers can barely find our way without the help of our GPS-enabled cell phones.
By abandoning traditional navigational methods, we’re losing touch with the natural world. And in the process, we’re jeopardising not just our physical and mental health but our spiritual well-being too.