Sailing in History's Wake

Twenty-one years ago, a quiet young Englishman named Philip Beale visited Java and fell in love with a ship. To be precise, it was a picture of a ship, a sculptural relief of a jaunty schooner, its bow thrust upward by a swell, carved some 1,200 years ago at Borobudur, the magnificent Buddhist monument not far from Yogyakarta. Roaming across the Indonesian islands on a grant to study traditional ships, Beale had read that sailors from the Malay Archipelago regularly crossed the Indian Ocean, and even established colonies in East Africa, centuries before Borobudur was built. As he gazed at the...

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