Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonder of How
Animals Find Their Way
by David Barrie
The Experiment Publishing Co.
When Cole Porter wrote, “And this is why birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it,” he was referring to falling in love. But as science continues to discover, he could also have been referencing the ability of these same creatures to navigate long distances and then find their way home, as described in David Barrie’s new book, Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonder of How Animals Find Their Way.
Many of us are familiar with the amazing journeys of the monarch butterflies and of the arctic tern, but ants, wasps and bees have also shown innate abilities to navigate. Are you familiar with the exploits of the blackpoll warbler, which flies nonstop from Long Island to the Dominican Republic, a distance of 1,721 miles over the open ocean? And what about the travels of the albatross? Only recently fitted with radio transmitters, they have been tracked flying 9,300 miles in 37 days, with one bird flying an amazing 582 miles in a single day and achieving speeds as high as 36 mph.
It is humbling to think that birds, bees and fish can find their way around a great deal better than we can, and without sextants or Nautical Almanacs. Many species of animals posses an innate ability to navigate, whether using stars, the sun and polarized light, their internal magnetic compass, olfactory senses, or visual and electromagnetic receptors. Nature has equipped many species with the gift of long-range navigation skills that are simply breathtaking.
Supernavigators details the mysterious methods of animal migration, methods that aspiring celestial navigators wish we possessed. These scientific tidbits, as well as a myriad of others, are included in this fascinating book. Barrie, a distant relative of the author of Peter Pan, is an able writer with a conversational style, an accomplished long-distance sailor and a fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation. Barrie’s previous book was titled Sextant; he knows what he is about, and this book is worth reading.