They knew the world wasn't a sphere. Either it stretched at the poles or it bulged at the equator. But which? They needed to know because accurate maps saved lives at sea and made money on land. However, measuring the earth was so difficult that most thought it impossible.
The world's first international team of scientists was sent to a continent of unmapped rainforests and ice-shrouded volcanoes where they attempted to measure the length on the ground of one degree of latitude. Beset by egos and disease, storms and earthquakes, mutiny and murder, they struggled for ten years to reach the single figure they sought.
Latitude is an epic story of survival and science set in mountain camps and remote observatories. It is also a story of exploration in which an unruly gaggle of misfits made breakthroughs in rubber and platinum, gravity and fogbows, quinine and Inca archaeology. A breathtaking tale of courage in adversity, it is celebrated today as the first modern exploring expedition.
Nicholas Crane was born in seaside Hastings, grew up in rural Norfolk and learned winter mountaineering in snowy Scotland. Between 2015 and 2018, he was president of the Royal Geographical Society. He is an award-winning writer and geographer who is well-known for his television work as lead presenter for BAFTA winning series Coast, Great British Journeys, Map Man, Britannia and Town. He is the author of more than ten books that include: Clear Waters Rising, Two Degrees West, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet, The Making of the British Landscape and You Are Here, A Brief Guide to the World. He has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. Nick has travelled in all seven of the world's continents. With his cousin, Dr Richard Crane, he identified and visited for the first time the geographical Pole of Inaccessibility, the point on the globe most distant from the open sea. He lives in London.
"This wonderfully readable and rollicking story of adventure and scientific exploration is as gripping as any novel. Full of big ideas and even bigger personalities, it's a book that sparkles with intelligence and wit"
– Alex Preston, author and journalist
"Crane has a rare knack for showing people things they really ought to see across space and time without them having to get out of their chair. Latitude applies his trademark blend of pace, rigour and attention to enticing detail, in order to fill in a key segment of historical and geographical knowledge"
– Joe Smith, director of The Royal Geographic society
"Latitude is a thrilling story of courage, survival and science. It's an extraordinary, visceral and vivid read"
– Geographical Magazine
"A story for our times"
– Eastern Daily Press
"An amazing story"
– Jeremy Vine