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Captain Cook: Explorer of the enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was an era of vast intellectual achievements, when philosophers, scientists, engineers, and statesmen, such as Isaac Newton, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Adam Smith, revolutionized the way we think about the world. But among this pantheon is one whose feats are relatively little known to Americans--which is astonishing considering the scale of his discoveries. This is Captain James Cook, the greatest navigator and explorer of his age--perhaps of all time--who was born into an obscure English family and enjoyed no formal education but rose through hard work and discipline to the highest ranks of British society.

Sadly, thanks in part to the doctrines of cultural relativism and racial politics fashionable in our own day, Cook now often is regarded as a vanguard of imperialism and the exploitation of native peoples. Prominent University of Hawai'i professor Haunani-Kay Trask, for example, has labeled Cook a "syphilitic, tubercular racist," and her sister, Miliani Trask--a political activist who served as a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs--has urged people to vandalize the monument to Cook located on Hawai'i Island. (1)

This is a travesty, because Cook was a humane man, a conscientious scholar, and--in the context of his era--astonishingly modern in his treatment of the natives his expeditions first encountered. Equally remarkable was his care for the men who accompanied him on his three voyages around the world and who suffered few of the illnesses common to sailors then, thanks to Cook's scientific concern with hygiene and diet. Before meeting his tragic death at Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i, Cook broke all records of previous explorers and set a few that would stand for centuries afterward.

Cook, who partly inspired the character of Captain Kirk in Star Trek, once voiced his ambition to seek out new civilizations when he wrote in his journals that he had gone "not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go." (2) He wrote those words on January 30, 1774, as his ship lay at 71[degrees] south latitude, which no expedition would reach again for fifty years.

Over the course of his three missions, Cook discovered Hawai'i, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and countless Pacific islands and peoples. He explored New Zealand, Australia, and Alaska, and he became the first European to see a kangaroo, the Maori haka dance, and the Alaskan Inupiat people. Most important, the maps he drew made the scientific exploration of the Western hemisphere possible and changed the course of world history so dramatically that it still is difficult to grasp the true grandeur of his accomplishments.

When James Cook was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1728, the Pacific Ocean was largely unknown to Europeans. Although that sea is the largest thing on the planet, it had not even been glimpsed by Western voyagers until 1512. And exploration after that was a slapdash affair, in part because of the extreme danger of traveling so far in the primitive conditions of the time. Motivated by religious dogma and a lust for empire, the conquistadores and their successors had been handicapped by their own superstitions, by misinformation about the terrain and the climates they would encounter, and by their almost total ignorance about medicine, which led to the deaths of large percentages of ship crews. Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the Earth in 1519-1522, for instance, had about a 94 percent fatality rate--of the 270 men who accompanied him, only 18 survived.

For centuries after that, ocean voyaging remained treacherous work. Among the worst diseases sailors encountered was scurvy, a condition that causes the body literally to disintegrate. We now know it is caused by lack of Vitamin C and can be cured by even a small amount of citrus fruit, but that was not established until well into the eighteenth century. Thus, when British Commodore George Anson led eight ships and more than 1,800 men around the world on a military expedition in 1740, only 188 returned. Scurvy alone claimed more than a thousand. Other explorers had better luck by hugging the coasts, which enabled sailors to go ashore and eat fresh produce but also restricted the range of ships.

Another handicap was the inability to calculate longitude accurately. Trained sailors using sextants could determine latitude with relative ease, but to locate how far east or west a ship was, one needed to know the precise time, and the only clocks yet invented used pendulums and were therefore inoperative on board a rocking ship. In 1714, the British Parliament offered a reward for any inventor who could devise a working shipboard timepiece; sixty years later, Cook's voyages would test the first successful chronometer. But until then, sailors depended on dead reckoning or "running down the line"--simply sailing along a particular latitude until the ship bumped into something.

But the greatest obstacle was the immensity of the Pacific itself. At almost sixty-four million square miles, it makes up a third of the entire planet. It is more than five million square miles larger than the total landmass of the Earth, and larger than the entire surface of Mars. Like a vast desert, the Pacific is dotted by scattered islands, most quite small, and many of which lack fresh water. Rudimentary navigational equipment and an almost total inability to predict the weather made things difficult enough. But in Cook's day, what exploration had been done had been kept largely secret by monarchs who protected their naval knowledge against rivals by confidentiality and by spreading outright disinformation. Maps were riddled with inaccuracies and speculation. Some showed lands that did not exist. Many were absurdly inaccurate.

Other types of inaccuracies also were widespread. Some scholars thought the men of Tierra del Fuego were giants; that seawater could not freeze; and that somewhere in the south Pacific lay a vast, undiscovered continent, which they called Terra Australis Incognito. These theories were reinforced by tales of veteran sailors who often misremembered their locations, mistook clouds for islands, and believed in sea monsters.

Cook probably heard many of these tales as a teenager, when he worked as a grocer's clerk in the seaside village of Staithes, until 1746. He then took an apprenticeship with a coal shipper in Whitby, a coastal town on the North Sea. His attentiveness and hard work on board the coal ships impressed his employer so much that nine years later he was offered the position of master--essentially second in command--a remarkably rapid advancement for a twenty-seven-year-old.

But Cook rejected the offer and enlisted in the Royal Navy instead. He was older than most volunteers and essentially took a demotion to the bottommost rank of sea service. But the French and Indian War had begun, and an ambitious man could make a name for himself in the military. Cook did this effectively, qualifying within two years to serve as master on a navy ship. In 1758, when he was sent to Nova Scotia to aid in the war, he happened to meet an army surveyor. Intrigued, he asked the man to teach him surveying, and Cook took to it well enough to complete a chart of Gaspe Bay that impressed his superiors with its accuracy. He began working on other charts, and when the war ended, the British government, needing complete maps of the area, dispatched him again to North America. Between 1763 and 1768, he completed maps that were extraordinary for their detail and precision. Products of diligent calculation, his maps were so fine that when the Royal Society approached navy leaders with a proposal for a scientific voyage to the Pacific, Cook was the natural choice.

What the Society wanted was to fit out a ship to observe the transit of Venus, an astronomical phenomenon that occurs when Venus appears to cross the sun, then cross it again eight years later. These double passes come at intervals of more than a century. (3) Observing the transit could prove useful, the scientists knew, because it would enable astronomers to calculate the exact distance between Earth and the sun.

The first scientific observation of the transit had been in 1639. The next, in 1761, was moderately successful, but the Royal Society wanted to make sure that the 1769 transit--which would be the last opportunity until 1874--was not missed. They planned to send scientific teams to different parts of the world to ensure that weather did not interfere with the telescopes--and they figured that an ideal place for observation would be the southern Pacific Ocean. They asked King George III to send a naval vessel to watch the transit--and perhaps do a little exploring on the side.

That additional exploring was championed by the ambitious natural philosopher Alexander Dalrymple, principal advocate of the theory of Tierra Australis Incognito. The thirty-year-old Dalrymple hoped to lead a mission to find the continent that he was certain must exist. But the navy refused to place a ship under the command of an inexperienced civilian and selected Cook instead. Miffed, Dalrymple refused to participate if he was not in charge. So the Society sought another scientist to lead the research portion of the voyage while the navy began fitting out a ship. The vessel it chose--probably at Cook's suggestion--was one of the fat, slow cargo ships used by coal carriers on the North Sea, called a "Whitby collier" or "Whitby cat." Cook had grown up on them and knew that, although slow and unlovely, they were stable and roomy enough for the supplies a multiyear voyage would require. She was christened the Endeavour.

By good fortune, while the Endeavour was being fitted out, the Dolphin returned to England from a worldwide voyage commanded by Captain Samuel Wallis. He reported two amazing pieces of news. First, he had discovered an island he called "George the Third Island," which we know as Tahiti. The Royal Society instantly recognized that it was ideally situated for observing the transit of Venus: that was where Cook should go.

Second, Wallis had experimented with a special diet for his crew--including sauerkraut--to see if it would prevent scurvy. The results were striking: although they had suffered from the illness, none had died. The Scottish doctor James Lind already had discovered that citrus could prevent scurvy, and published a book about it in 1753, but it was largely ignored, and there is no evidence that Wallis or Cook had read it. Yet Cook paid attention to Wallis's sauerkraut idea, and during his voyages, he insisted that his crew take it and other antiscorbutics. (Actually, sauerkraut is a relatively poor source of Vitamin C, but it was easier to preserve onboard ship.)

Replacing Dalrymple was not difficult. A rich twenty-five-year-old amateur scientist named Joseph Banks volunteered, not just to accompany Cook, but to pay the gargantuan sum of [pounds sterling]10,000 for the privilege of bringing his entourage: two artists, four servants, a secretary, and two hunting dogs. Banks could hardly have been more different from Cook. He was a vivacious, arrogant, highly educated man, but also realistic and willing to learn. The two soon fell into a respectful friendship that withstood years of cramped quarters and deadly dangers on unknown seas.

The Endeavour's three-year mission would prove fundamentally different from previous expeditions by European powers. "The ugly truth," writes Thomas Bowden in The Enemies of Christopher Columbus, "is that Columbus and some of his European followers... forced Christian religion on the Indians, treated them brutally, robbed them, enslaved them, and in a dozen other ways made them more miserable than they already were." (4) The Cook expedition, by contrast, was marked by a spirit of discovery and reason most eloquently expressed in a series of "Hints" that the president of the Royal Society prepared for Cook's guidance. "Exercise the utmost patience and forbearance with respect to the Natives," read one. "[S]hedding [their] blood... is a crime of the highest nature," read another, because "[t]hey are human creatures," and "the legal possessors of the several regions they inhabit.... Conquest over such people can give no just title, because they could never be the aggressors." (5) The mission would at times fall short of these high standards, but Cook struggled with remarkable success to maintain a focus on science, toleration, and respect in his dealings with natives. He "took possession" of lands he encountered--in the sense of taking legal priority over them as against other European nations--but never claimed any right to govern or own them. He never plundered the lands he discovered, but bartered with the natives for provisions and asked their permission to fell trees. And, lacking much interest in religion himself, he made no effort to convert the natives to Christianity.

On April 26, 1768, the Endeavour left Plymouth, carrying ninety-four people--including several who had traveled with Wallis to Tahiti--as well as pigs, chickens, a goat, and Banks's dogs. After a stop in Rio de Janeiro, where Banks wrote the first scientific description of the plant bougainvillea, the ship arrived in Tierra del Fuego in mid-January. Here, Banks had his first taste of the natural dangers the expedition would encounter. Taking with him nine men, including his two servants, he headed inland to collect plants, but went too far. When it began to snow, the group was forced to wait out the night. The two servants and another man stole a bottle of rum, however, and, drunk in the snow, the servants died of hypothermia. The rest returned to the ship the next day, exhausted from the ordeal.

Rounding Cape Horn was not especially difficult, and the Endeavour headed northwest into the Pacific until April 4, when the first unknown land was sighted: the atoll of Vahitahi in the Tuamotu archipelago. For more than a week, the ship sailed past several other islands until it anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on April 13. They soon located a spot for their telescope, which they named Point Venus, and, with the natives' permission, built a little fort and observatory.

During the trip, four men had died from accidents--including Banks's servants--and one from suicide, but none from disease, thanks to Cook's insistence on the anti-scurvy diet and his unusual attention to hygiene. At a time when bathing was a rarity, Cook demanded that his men regularly clean themselves and punished those who appeared dirty by denying them their ration of rum. Yet Cook realistically could do little about venereal disease, and his worry over this gradually became an obsession.

Tahiti, after all, appeared to Western eyes as a sexual paradise. "Taboo" may be a Polynesian word, but when it came to sex, it was the Europeans who felt the taboos--and the thrill of breaking them. Tahitians "express the most indecent ideas in conversation without the least emotion, and they delight in such conversation beyond any other," wrote Cook. "Chastity indeed is but little valued." (6) That was a hasty judgment, but it certainly was true that Polynesian culture was highly sexualized. Young sailors cooped up in the ship for months likely felt they had reached Shangri-La when scores of beautiful, naked Tahitian women swarmed out to the Endeavour to offer themselves with what seemed like shocking abandon, or danced the provocative, hip-swinging 'ote'a before them.

Cook himself never indulged in sex with natives--in fact, his total abstinence became a problem on some occasions, when natives took it as an affront--but his crew could not resist, and he knew sailors well enough to know that his efforts at prohibiting sexual relations would prove futile. He ordered the ship's surgeon to inspect the men for symptoms of disease; only one tested positive, and he was confined to the ship. But syphilis was as little understood as scurvy at the time. Early signs were often difficult to detect, and what passed for medical science among Europeans was not measurably superior to the folk remedies the Polynesians used. Until the discovery of penicillin in the twentieth century, syphilis had no effective treatments, and epidemics of it and other sexually transmitted diseases regularly decimated European populations. By Cook's day, it was nearly ubiquitous in London and other major cities.

The average British sailor was a poor man, to whom sea service was the only realistic alternative to life on the grimy streets of London, or hard, physical labor on a farm. His diet on board was fish or salt pork and dry biscuit. At home, it was only slightly better. Now, arrived in the lush tropics, with fresh fruit and flowers so fragrant that islands sometimes could be smelled before they were seen, he found that his white skin and apparently magical technology made him exotic and desirable to native women. Iron was unknown to the Polynesians, and Tahitian women offered sex in exchange for a single nail. The consequences were predictable: Cook soon found that the ship's iron fittings were disappearing. The name "Point Venus" became a double-entendre over which Europeans would giggle and fantasize for decades. And Cook found that one of the most persistent difficulties throughout his voyages was desertion--crewmen often tried to stay behind when the ships left.

It is now impossible to know what the Tahitians' real attitude toward sex with the crewmen was, given that they had no written language, and the cultural gulf between them and the British was enormous. What counted as shameful promiscuity or prostitution in England did not in Tahiti, and the language barrier and the total alienness of these different peoples led to much misunderstanding. As Nicholas Thomas observes in his book Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook, one episode hints at the tensions the Tahitians may have felt. One day in mid-May 1769, while the crew were working at the fortress they had built around the Point Venus observatory, a Tahitian noblewoman named Purea seemed to command a young man to simulate sex with a twelve-year-old girl while the Europeans watched. "[I]t appeared to be done more from custom than lewdness," wrote Cook in his journal, "for there were several women present... and these were so far from shewing the least disapprobation that they instructed the girl how she should act her part." (7) This may have been some sort of ceremony, but Thomas points out that it was not customary for the Tahitians to have sex in public, and suggests what happened was this: Unable to communicate in English, Purea was trying to use pantomime to satirize--or even protest--the liberties Cook's crew were taking with local women. (8)

If that was her goal, the message was lost. They continued to pursue the women, who typically were willing; the women also might have been exploited by their husbands, who wanted nails and other items the sailors offered. Cook's efforts to confine diseased sailors to the ship ultimately were pointless, and he was pained to see how they spread sickness to the natives. On future voyages, he would try harder to prevent them from going ashore, but nothing worked. Lacking natural resistance, the Polynesians soon suffered epidemics that wiped out shocking percentages of the populations of several islands. When Cook returned to Tahiti on his second voyage in 1774, he estimated that 204,000 had died from the scourge since his first visit.

Another problem was theft; aside from the crew selling the iron stock, the natives frequently filched things from the ships--either out of curiosity, or from a simple desire to have a thing, or as a challenge to prove one's prowess and speed. Their conception of crime and punishment was vastly different from the Europeans--when Cook punished his own crew for misbehavior by the traditional penalty of flogging, they were so horrified that they wept and cut their heads with shells until the blood ran down their faces.

But Cook, recalling the Royal Society's "Hints," was more careful about punishing the Tahitians. He tried seizing native canoes and holding them hostage until stolen items were returned, but this was a clumsy form of retaliation, in part because he could not know if the canoes even belonged to the thieves. Still, it was better than flogging or shooting, which were the only alternatives.

Yet he lost his composure on some occasions, and he could not always control his crew. When a Tahitian tried to steal a musket, one of his men shot and killed the man. Cook and his crew were abashed. "What a pity, that such brutality should be exercised by civilized people upon unarmed ignorant Indians!" wrote a shipmate. (9) (The Europeans indiscriminately used the word "Indians" for all native races.) He tried to explain to the Tahitians, but it is impossible to know how many understood. When another thief somehow managed to steal a crucial piece of astronomical equipment from Point Venus, Cook confiscated canoes and marched into the island to find the culprit. Meanwhile his men, against orders, arrested a local chief and took him to the fort. When Cook learned of this, he ordered the man released. The chief gave Cook two hogs in thanks, which embarrassed the captain, "for it is very much certain that the treatment he had met with us did not merit such a reward." (10)

With the equipment returned, the crew was able to observe the transit of Venus, but the results proved useless due to an optical phenomenon called the "black drop effect," which made precise measurements impossible. Nevertheless, with the first part of their mission completed, the Endeavour crew could now set off for the second part: searching for the mythical southern continent. Joined by a Tahitian volunteer named Tupaia, they sailed first through the neighboring islands, including Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, and Rurutu, before reaching New Zealand in October 1769. Here, Cook experienced a mortifying day that would once again illustrate, tragically, the difference between his voyage and those of previous explorers.

Leaving some young crewmen in the rowboat, he led a party inland from the eastern shore of the north island near what is now Gisborne. They found that the native Maori had fled, and they tried leaving gifts for them to find when they returned. Suddenly, shots rang out--two boys he had left in the boat had been scared by a party of Maori men and had opened fire, killing one. Upset that their first contact would end in pointless death, Cook tried leaving nails and other presents next to the body in atonement, and they returned to the ship.

The next day the landing party returned, only to be confronted by a group of fierce, tattooed native warriors brandishing clubs and performing the terrifying haka dance. Cook ordered his men to hold back; he was relieved and a little astonished when the natives understood Tupaia's language. He decided to demonstrate his peaceful intentions by setting down his gun and moving forward by himself to greet the Maori. One of the warriors set down his weapon as well. With everyone looking on in fear, the two men reached out their hands and then exchanged the traditional Maori greeting of the hongi--touching noses. Soon, the Maori repeated their demonstration of the haka, which often is performed as a celebratory greeting rather than as a threat. It was a breathtaking first contact. (11)

Sadly, as the groups exchanged gifts, another misunderstanding arose. The Europeans refused to trade their muskets or swords, and the Maori grew annoyed. When one grabbed a weapon, Banks and another man shot him. More shots rang out, and the natives fled. The Endeavour crew then headed back to the ship, and on the way, they spotted a Maori canoe. Cook, disappointed that once again his efforts to demonstrate his peaceful intentions had been frustrated, ordered his men to intercept them, in hopes that by taking them back to the Endeavour, he could prove the crew's friendliness. But the frightened natives resisted, and yet another scuffle ensued, during which the crew fired still more shots, killing more New Zealand men. At last, they captured three boys from the canoe and took them back to the ship, where they were fed and allowed a relaxing slumber.

Retiring to his cabin, an ashamed Cook wrote in his journal, "I can by no means justify my conduct in attacking and killing the people in this boat." They had been "wholly ignorant of my design." (12) Banks, too, wrote that it was "the most disagreeable day my life has yet seen." (13) As biographer John Beaglehole comments, "this was rather a new note in the literature of discovery." (14) The meeting with the Maori had ended in almost complete failure--precisely because the Europeans' goal had not been to enslave or conquer, but to learn and exchange. The Maori were ferocious warriors and cannibals. But both then and later, Cook went to extraordinary lengths to avoid injury and conflict with them.

The Endeavour circumnavigated New Zealand, proving that it, at least, was not the mythical southern continent, and producing a remarkably accurate map, which required months of tedious observation. Then the ship sailed for Australia, known then only as a briefly glimpsed coastline from a Dutchman's voyage a century before. For almost half a year, the ship sailed around Tasmania and Australia, carefully charting the coastline and trying with only moderate success to meet the Aborigines. The scientists and artists carefully described kangaroos, lorikeets, and mudskippers, and collected hundreds of specimens of plants and animals new to science. One harbor seemed so inviting to Banks's botanical investigations that he called it Botany Bay and predicted--wrongly, as it turned out--that it would offer a fine location for a settlement.

But all of their work almost came to nothing in the early hours of June 11, 1770, when the ship suddenly shuddered to a stop and tilted to the right. Endeavour had encountered her greatest danger yet: the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is an eighty-thousand-square-mile region of coral reefs and rock scattered in a jagged diagonal line outward from the continent like a jawbone with millions of submerged teeth. The crew had sailed unknowingly into the space between it and the shore and run against a section of razor-sharp coral that sliced the ship's bottom open and held Endeavour fast against the pounding waves. "A reef such as is here spoke of," Cook explained, is "a wall of coral rock rising almost perpendicular out of the unfathomable ocean.... The large waves of the vast ocean meeting with so sudden a resistance make a most terrible surf breaking mountains high." (15) More than nine thousand miles from London--four thousand from the nearest European port--they had virtually no hope of survival if the ship were wrecked. The crew would drown or starve, and all of their discoveries would vanish from history.

Keeping a calm reserve, Cook directed the crew to throw unnecessary weight overboard--including six cannons that were not recovered until 1969--and to pump the leaking water while a diver inspected the damage. Fortunately, a chunk of coral had broken off and plugged the hole in the hull. One young sailor suggested a brilliant solution: divers would wrap a sail around the ship's bottom to stop the leak long enough to reach the shore for repairs. Cook ordered it done, and the men labored to right the ship as the hours bled into days. It was "much easier to conceive than to describe the satisfaction felt by everybody," Cook wrote, when the water began to recede and the ship to right itself. (16) But even when it was heaved off the rocks, the danger was not passed. The crippled vessel had to limp to shore through invisible hazards for eleven more days before, at last, it reached the beach. During that time, it ground to a halt against the reef twice more.

After weeks of repairs, the Endeavour finally was ready to sail again. Although Cook now knew of the obstacles in his path, reaching the open sea presented an incredible challenge. The patience and discipline he exhibited in the days that followed, sounding possible outlets and threading the needle, are a monument to his fortitude and his mastery as a navigator. For three weeks, crewmen in rowboats went about the tedious task of dropping lead lines to measure the depth of the water, evaluate possible escapes, and report back, while the ship inched its way through the treacherous underwater obstacles. Finally, on August 13, they found a path.

But that was only the first stage of the ship's escape. Even with its repairs, the Endeavour was falling apart, and the waves in the coral labyrinth were so rough that they "increase[ed] her leaks considerably, so that it was as much as one pump could [do to] keep her free, kept continually at work." (17) Three days later, a strong wind shoved the vessel back toward the reefs she had just avoided. "All the dangers we had escaped were little in comparison" to this, wrote Cook. (18) But a light, favorable wind at last sprang up, and he glimpsed a small opening nearby. Although "its breadth was not more than the length of the ship," the water there was calmer, and Cook "resolved to push [the ship there] if possible, having no other probable views to save her, for we were still in the very jaws of destruction." (19) For the next day, the sailors "struggled hard with the flood" until they found a safe spot in the same reef that they had hoped to escape so recently before. On August 23, Cook went ashore on a tall island where he could get a better view, and saw a path to the sea before him. From there, the ship set sail for Batavia--today's Jakarta--arriving in October 1770.

So far, despite all of the dangers, the Endeavour's crew had maintained extraordinarily good health. But the Dutch outpost at Batavia was a cesspool of foul water, poor drainage, bad hygiene, and corrupt bureaucrats who delayed the ship's departure until late December. During that time, crewmen began to fall ill. The Tahitian Tupaia died. So did the ship's doctor. Then three sailors. When the ship finally headed for home, only about a dozen of the men were fit for duty, and before reaching England six weeks later, twenty-three more had died of illness contracted in Batavia.

On their return, Banks immediately was heralded a national hero and elected president of the Royal Society--a position he would hold for four decades. But the explosion of publicity largely passed over Cook. The public regarded him as merely the courier who had carried the celebrity scientist safely on his travels.

Yet the navy and King George recognized his achievement and promptly decided on a follow-up voyage. The Australian discoveries had not laid to rest the myth of Terra Australis Incognito, and New Zealand would serve as a convenient base for another effort to find the unknown continent. A year after his homecoming, Cook was placed in command of a second expedition, this time leading 193 men and two ships, the Resolution and the Adventure--both, like the Endeavour, Whitby cats.

Banks, however, was not on board. He had insisted on refitting the Resolution to suit an expanded support staff--including even a crew of trumpet players for entertainment--and when his changes rendered the ship unseaworthy and were removed, Banks took affront and refused to go along. In his place, the Royal Society chose a different but equally talented group of artists and scientists.

The ships departed in mid-July 1772, and after rounding Africa, sailed southeast, looking for any sign of a southern continent. Instead they found icebergs, the source of which was unknown, because scientists at the time believed seawater could not freeze. If, as they thought, ice implied a source of fresh water, it stood to reason a landmass was somewhere nearby. But sailing the wooden ships southward through fields of giant floating ice mountains was perilous work. The "very curious and romantic views many of these [ice] islands exhibit," Cook wrote, "at once fill the mind with admiration and horror. The first is occasioned by the beautifulness of the picture and the latter by the danger attending it, for [were] a ship to fall aboard one of these large pieces of ice she would be dashed to pieces in a moment." (20)

By the middle of January, Cook had reached 67[degrees] latitude, within seventy-five miles of Antarctica. Not long afterward, the two ships became separated, and the Adventure's captain, Tobias Furneaux, set off for New Zealand, which the commanders had chosen as a rendezvous in such a case. Cook stuck to the work for two more months before turning north for the meeting place. When the ships were reunited, Cook was angered to learn that Furneaux had not enforced his orders about sauerkraut rations, and many of the Adventure's crew were suffering from scurvy. He put the crews into condition again, and they were able to return to sea that June. After stopping in Tahiti--where Cook was stunned at the horrors wrought by syphilis and other diseases--they traveled to Raiatea, Tonga, and other islands before arriving back in New Zealand that October.

On the way, another storm separated the two ships, and Cook arrived first. They had planned for such an eventuality, and Cook waited the appointed time before giving up and heading south on November 26, four days before the Adventure arrived. While Furneaux's ship waited and gathered fresh supplies, one of his landing parties was attacked by a group of Maori, who killed and ate the men. Horrified, the Europeans fled, returning to England in July. Two years would pass before Cook learned the whole story. (21)

In the meantime, the Resolution returned to the Antarctic, where, for week after week, it dodged thousands of icebergs, searching for the nonexistent southern continent. By January, Cook had completed a virtual circumnavigation of the globe at the latitude of 40[degrees]. Then he again turned toward the tropics, visiting Easter Island before moving on to the Marquesas, Huahine, Tonga, and the New Hebrides. Although some natives proved so hostile that he could not make contact with them, Cook generally was amazed by the hospitality--as well as the propensity for theft--of the Polynesian tribes. The exotic sights and fantastic first contacts are captured well in a representative passage from the journal for August 4, 1774:
At daybreak, we discovered a high table land... and a low isle... which
we had passed in the night.... [W]e now found that what we had taken
for a common fire in the night was a volcano which threw up vast
quantities of fire and smoke and made a rumbling noise which was heard
at a good distance. Soon after we had made sail for the east end of the
island, we discovered an inlet which had the appearance of a harbor....
It was not long before our boats made the signaled-for anchorage and we
stood in accordingly.... While this work was going forward, vast
numbers of the natives had collected together on the shores and a great
many came off in canoes, and some even swam off, but came not nearer
than a stone's throw, and those in the canoe had their arms in constant
readiness; insensibly they became bolder and bolder, and at last came
under our stern and exchanged some coconuts for pieces of cloth, etc.,
some more daring than the others were for carrying off everything they
could lay their hands upon, and made several attempts to knock the
rings [off] the rudder. The greatest trouble they gave us was to look
after the buoys of our anchors, which were no soon[er] let go from the
ship or thrown out of the boats than they ley hold of them. A few
muskets fired without any design to hit had no effect, but our
four-pounder threw them into great confusion, made them quit their
canoes, and take to the water. But seeing none were hurt, they
presently recovered [from] their fright and returned to their canoes,
and once more attempted to take away the buoys. This put us to the
necessity of firing a few musketoon shots over them which had the
desired effect and although none were hurt they were afterwards afraid
to come near them, and at last retired to the shore and we were
suffered to set down to dinner undisturbed. (22)

For the rest of the summer, the ship sailed through perilous reefs off New Caledonia. Only Cook's steadfast excellence as a commander saved the ship from disaster. "I really think our situation was to be envied by very few except the thief who has got the halter about his neck," wrote one crewman. (23) But Cook cautiously felt the ship's way forward. When observers spotted what appeared to be mysteriously tall trees on the Isle of Pines, Cook decided to investigate, despite the hazards: "I was now almost tired of a coast I could no longer explore but at the risk of losing the ship and ruining the whole voyage," he wrote, "but I was determined not to leave it till I was satisfied what sort of trees those were." (24) In the end, he was unable to land, but this is one more example of the unique mix of bravery, discipline, and curiosity that made him such an extraordinary explorer.

In October 1774, the Resolution returned to New Zealand, where Cook got his first hints of the awful fate of the Adventure party. He would not get the full details for some time yet, but in the meantime, he headed for England by a long route that took him through the south Atlantic, to ensure that he definitively disproved the existence of the southern continent. After exploring the South Sandwich Islands, (25) he was relieved at last to conclude that no such land existed. If it did, it would be inaccessible and untenable, thanks to "[t]hick fogs, snow storms, intense cold, and every other thing that can render navigation dangerous one has to encounter, and these difficulties are greatly heightened by the inexpressibl[y] horrid aspect of the country, a country doomed by nature never once to feel the warmth of the sun's rays, but to lie forever buried under everlasting snow and ice." (26) In March, the ship reached South Africa, and by the end of July, Cook was back home, "having been absent from England three years and eighteen days, in which time I lost but four men and one only of them by sickness." (27)

The successful completion of his second voyage brought Cook glory and honor. He was made a member of the Royal Society and promoted to the rank of post-captain, (28) making him the first Royal Navy sailor to reach such a rank by promotion from the lowest ranks. The Crown offered him a job as administrator of Greenwich Hospital, a position that would assure him a comfortable income for the rest of his life. But a third voyage was already in the works, and Cook was not the sort of man to settle down.

The public reason for a third trip was to carry home a Tahitian man named Mai (called "Omai" at the time), who had accompanied Cook to England and had become a celebrity in London society. It struck the aristocratic fancy to mount a glorious voyage to send Mai back, but the real mission was to search for another great phantasm of geography: the fabled "Northwest Passage" that would give Europeans access to the resource-rich lands of the Pacific Northwest without having to round the southern tips of Africa or South America.

According to the popular legend, Cook was invited to dinner by top navy officials who wanted him to recommend a leader for this expedition. He "was so fired with the contemplation and representation of the object," wrote one who was there, "that he started up, and declared that he would undertake the direction of the enterprise." (29) Heaven only knows what Cook's wife--who spent only four of their sixteen years of marriage in his company--thought of this, but by the summer of 1776, the plan was set. After visiting Tahiti and New Zealand, the third expedition would travel north from California to Alaska, then through the Bering Strait--a part of the world that was particularly badly mapped. Cook would again command two ships, the Resolution and a new ship, the Discovery.

Tragically, where Cook's first two voyages had been monuments of order, discipline, and reason, the third voyage proved otherwise. Whether from exhaustion or a simple loss of focus, Cook's personality seems to have changed, and the alteration was evident even before the mission began. He neglected to oversee the refitting of the Resolution and the fitting out of the Discovery--matters to which he had attended carefully before--and contractors at the navy yards cut corners. The ships departed late and quickly proved unseaworthy. Cook had to have both of them recaulked in South Africa. When at last they were ready, the ships headed for the Kerguelen Islands and then for Tasmania. Yet they still leaked, and storms broke their masts.

They arrived in New Zealand in February, where the crew recuperated and Cook investigated the fate of the men from the Adventure. The Maori feared--and the seamen hoped for--reprisals, but Cook would have none of it. In fact, the crew were shocked when, after a full investigation, he refused to punish the Maori. He considered them "a brave, noble, open, and benevolent" people, who would "never put up with an insult" but would not attack without reason. (30) He was well aware of their cannibalism, but he believed they ate enemies killed in battle "from custom and not from a savage disposition." (31) The many witnesses he interviewed "all agree... that the thing was not premeditated and that if [the Maori] thefts [of equipment from the Adventure] had not, unfortunately, been too hastily resented no ill consequence had attended." (32) Ignoring the calls for vengeance, Cook scandalized the sailors by inviting one of the Maori leaders who had attacked the Adventure party to tour the Resolution unmolested. The men feared that this apparent weakness would encourage further attacks, but Cook knew that reprisals by him would only lead to pointless war.

From New Zealand, the ships sailed to Tonga, where the locals presented an especially luxurious celebration. It was a ruse: They had a plan to assassinate Cook while he was distracted by the show. But he escaped death unknowingly when the conspirators quarreled and gave up the plan. Still, friction between the Polynesians and the Europeans was on the rise. In Tonga and the other islands they visited, it appeared that theft was increasing, and the crew's intercourse with the natives seemed to be causing more resentment than on previous visits. Cook's own patience seemed uncharacteristically short, too. He began punishing the natives for theft, sometimes in extreme ways. In Tonga, he burned several canoes--an extremely costly punishment, considering the amount of work building a canoe required. Then he began having thieves heavily flogged. Then he ordered crosses cut into their arms with sharp knives--a common penalty for theft back in Britain. On one occasion, he even commanded the ship's barber to cut off a thief's ears; fortunately, another officer managed to countermand the order.

When the expedition at last reached Tahiti, the crew built Mai a house and gave him many provisions. Before leaving, Cook observed a human sacrifice at the Utuaimahurau marae (temple) on the south side of the island. "From what we could learn, these sacrifices are not very uncommon," he wrote in his journal. "There were in the face of the marae where this man was buried forty-nine skulls, every one of which were those of men who had been sacrificed at this place, and I have seen skulls at many of the other great marae." (33) Cook said nothing at the time, but when the local ruler who had presided asked his opinion, he responded, "if a chief of England had put a man to death as he had done this, he would be hanged for it." Shocked, the Tahitian "bawled out 'Maeno maeno' (vile, vile) and would not hear another word, so that we left him with as great a contempt of our customs as we could possibly have of theirs." (34)

After demonstrating horseback riding to the natives and finishing yet another round of repairs to the ships, the voyagers set off for Alaska. They had dallied too long in the tropics, however, and were running late for exploration before the season became unfavorable. Thus Cook could not afford to stay long when, on January 18, 1778, he made his most important discovery yet: Hawai'i.

The Hawaiian archipelago is the most isolated spot on Earth--farther from another landmass than any other place. It first had been settled by Polynesian explorers at least a thousand years earlier, who had ventured across the sea in specially designed double-hulled canoes without the benefit of compasses or maps. Cook's men were amazed to discover that they spoke a dialect of the same Tahitian language, despite being some 2,700 miles from Tahiti. The Tahitians had no knowledge of the Hawaiians, and vice versa--that knowledge had been lost in the centuries after settlement. Yet their culture and religion were not much different from the rest of what the explorers now realized was a vast nation of islanders stretching between New Zealand, Rapanui, and Hawai'i--a total of some 800,000 square miles.

Anchoring between Kauai and Ni'ihau, Cook dispatched a landing party with instructions to seek fresh water and to return to the ships before nightfall. This time the captain wanted to "forbid all manner of connection" between his men and the native women. He had tried this before, "yet I afterwards found it did not succeed, and I am much afraid this will always be the case where it is necessary to have a number of people on shore; the opportunities and inducements to an intercourse between the sex are there too many to be guarded against." (35) But the landing party could not get off shore against the pounding waves and ended up spending the night. The island women were eager, even insistent, on having sex with the Europeans--more so even than the Tahitians. "Thus the very thing happened that I had above all others wished to prevent." (36) It was worse than that: Cook's embarrassed men did not tell him until weeks after leaving Hawai'i that when a native man grabbed the end of their boat, they had panicked and shot him dead. (37)

The Resolution and Discovery stayed only three days in Hawai'i before heading toward North America. They were running badly behind schedule and delayed by winds when they arrived in March at a place on the Oregon shore that Cook named Cape Foulweather. From there, they moved north, all the way along the Alaskan coast to the Bering Strait, which they reached in August. Every day was taken up by the hard manual labor of seamanship, the tedious computation of latitude and longitude (using the experimental chronometer), and potentially hazardous contacts with local tribesmen. Cook charted Nootka Sound and what later would be named Vancouver Island, after George Vancouver--a midshipman on the Resolution who afterward became a famous explorer himself. (38)

Cook was constantly frustrated by the inaccuracy and crudity of the few maps of the region, and was forced to consult with Russian fur traders about the geography. The ships kept pushing north, Cook and crew surveying every inlet in hopes of finding the elusive Northwest Passage. The mast broke repeatedly, and the risk of shipwreck was constant, especially when the vessels ventured into Sandman Reefs, an extraordinarily dangerous spot that sailors still avoid today. It was near here that Cook's consummate seamanship saved the expedition when he detected an impending collision merely from the noise of the waves: "At half past 4 we were alarmed at hearing the sound of breakers on our larboard bow," he wrote. "I immediately brought the ship to, with her head to the northward, and anchored.... A few hours after, the fog cleared away a little and it was perceived we had escaped very imminent danger." (39)

Entering the Arctic Sea, Cook and his men pushed on, past 70[degrees] north latitude, surveying all the way and growing increasingly incensed at the fraudulent maps, particularly Jacob von Stahlin's 1774 chart, which was dangerously misleading. "What could induce him to publish so erroneous a map," Cook fumed, "in which many of these islands are jumbled in regular confusion, without the least regard to truth, and yet he is pleased to call it a very accurate map? A map that the most illiterate of his seafaring men would have been ashamed to put his name to." (40) Incorrect maps meant deaths, if not from shipwreck, then from the way they hindered the careful planning and provisioning necessary for dangerous sea travel.

At last Cook's crew had had enough and, in October, they turned south to recuperate in the newly discovered land of Hawai'i. They arrived off the northern coast of Maui, but Cook would not allow his men to go ashore and ordered the Hawaiian women--who streamed from the beaches in canoes--to stay off the ships. He directed the vessels east, where they encountered Hawai'i Island and then turned south. For days, and then weeks, his ships circled the island, as the men became increasingly restless. At last their frustrations boiled over, and when he tried to get them to drink an experimental beer made from sugarcane, they protested in terms the captain deemed "very mutinous." He raged at length in his journal that "every innovation whatever, though ever so much in their advantage, is sure to meet with the highest disapprobation from seamen." (41)

Not until January 17--seven weeks after reaching Maui--did Cook anchor the ships at a welcoming spot on the southwest side of Hawai'i Island called Kealakekua Bay. The natives swarmed out to the ships in numbers Cook had never seen before--he estimated ten thousand people--and they climbed up the sides of the Resolution and the Discovery in such numbers that the ships began to tip over. What Cook could not know was that his arrival marked one of the most shocking coincidences in world history. Historians and anthropologists continue to debate the specifics to this day, but the most likely explanation is that the Hawaiians believed Cook to be an incarnation of the god Lono, a powerful deity whose annual festival, the Makahiki, was then underway.

According to the priests, Lono--the god of fertility and peace--had departed Hawai'i for the supernatural world of Kahiki ages before but had promised to return to Kealakekua Bay someday. The sails of Cook's ships resembled the tall staffs that were symbolic of Lono, and during the Makahiki celebrations, these staffs typically were carried around the island in the same clockwise direction that Cook's ships had taken. His visit to Kauai the year before had set the stage for the worst case of mistaken identity ever. There the people had prostrated themselves before Cook, chanting Lono's name--which the crewmen did not recognize--and brought the ships piles of sumptuous food. Word had spread among the Hawaiians, and the priests and chiefs were prepared to honor the return of Lono with sumptuous feasts and dancing.

No evidence indicates Cook realized the full scale of what was happening, even after he was taken to a temple (heiau) and put through an elaborate ceremony by the priests and chiefs. But as the days passed, some members of the crew did suspect. "[T]hey certainly regarded us as a superior race of people to themselves," wrote one officer, James King. "[T]hey would often say that the great Eatooa lived with us." (42) Eatooa was King's corruption of the word akua, meaning god.

The Hawaiians were overly generous in their provisioning, and in early February, the chiefs began to ask politely when the Europeans expected to go home. They left at last on February 4, shortly after burying a crewman who died after suffering a stroke. The chiefs asked that he be buried in the heiau, and Cook presided over the funeral. But only a week later, the Resolution's mast broke again, and the captain made the fateful decision to turn back to Kealakekua Bay for repairs.

The scene was entirely different than the one they had left. The place seemed largely deserted, and those Hawaiians who did remain extended a far more reserved welcome. Theft seemed much worse than before. A party of men gathering water for the ships was attacked by a group of natives throwing rocks. While the mast was being repaired, a native man stole a pair of tongs from the blacksmith. He was caught and given forty lashes with a whip. It is impossible to say for sure, but it seems either that the Hawaiians had realized that Cook was not Lono--for why would one of Lono's men die? And why would his ship break?--or that the religious focus had now changed because the Makahiki season sacred to Lono had come to an end. The season of Ku, the god of war--who demanded human sacrifices--had now begun. More prosaically, it seems likely that ordinary Hawaiians had all along resented the political oppression of chiefs and priests who taxed them to provide the lavish banquets they gave Cook and his men. Other scholars have speculated that the mythology of Lono dictated a ritual of death and mystical rebirth. (43)

Whatever the cause, the fatal clash came on February 14, 1779, after a series of minor scuffles and thefts. In the early hours, when a Hawaiian man made off with one of the Discovery's boats, an infuriated Cook led a party of marines on shore to arrest the friendly Chief Kalaniopu'u and bring him on board to be held until the boat was returned. Meanwhile, he sent another detachment to a nearby village to prevent any interference from there. A scuffle ensued at the village, and a Hawaiian man was shot dead. At the same time, Kalaniopu'u was agreeing to accompany Cook back to the Discovery, despite pleas from the gathering crowd, who begged him not to go. Some men began brandishing spears and daggers. Just as tensions reached their height, word arrived of the death at the village, and the mob began to surge forward angrily. Cook gave the order to abandon the mission and head back for the boats. But it was too late. One man lunged at him with a dagger, and Cook shot him. Another gun went off, and the crowd attacked in full force. Cook was knifed in the neck and fell into the water, where he was stabbed and drowned. Four marines were killed as well. The rest of the party escaped.

Cook's men were horrified. Some wanted immediate revenge. Others, particularly Charles Clerke, who succeeded Cook in command, urged restraint. They retrieved the Resolution's mast under a shower of stones thrown by Hawaiians, and, a few days later, sent a party ashore that killed a half dozen natives and burned a village. But Clerke and others recognized that nothing would be gained by this, and they knew that, like the Maori attack on the Adventure party years before, Cook's death, more than anything else, was the result of short tempers and poor communication. "[T]here is no good morality play, colonial or post-colonial, to be made of Cook's killing," writes one modern scholar. "It was a cross-cultural combination of forces that killed him." (44)

Nor were the Hawaiians proud of the death. The day afterward, two priests swam out to the ship under a sign of truce. With reverence, they handed over to the crew a bundle that contained parts of Cook's body. The corpse had been treated in the traditional manner reserved for Hawaiian royalty--its flesh removed from the bones and preserved. Other body parts were returned shortly afterward in a ceremony overseen by Kalaniopu'u, who made clear his desire for reconciliation. The crew buried Cook at sea in a solemn service not far from where the Cook monument now stands at Kealakekua Bay.

But the men honored their captain best when they continued onto their appointed mission. On February 22, Clerke ordered the Resolution and Discovery on a heading for Alaska once more. From there, they moved west to the coast of Asia, then south to Japan and Macao. Not until October 1780, nearly two years after Cook's death, did the ships arrive again in England.

In the history of exploration, nothing rivals the three expeditions of James Cook. His genius as a navigator, his skill as a sailor, his revolutionary focus on hygiene and diet, and his humane concern for the safety of the aboriginal peoples he encountered marked a fundamental difference between him and previous explorers. Whereas in prior centuries, voyages had been mounted with the avowed purpose of subjugating natives, pillaging their wealth, and forcing them to convert to Christianity, Cook's voyages were secular enterprises of discovery and scholarship. Although he claimed lands in the name of King George, the claim was not thought of as vesting a right of possession in the Crown. In fact, when the next generation of Hawaiian monarchs asked the British government to accept sovereignty over Hawai'i, the request was refused. And although he lost his legendary self-discipline on several occasions and was unable to control the spread of disease that he so dreaded, his concern for the humanity that he encountered proved far ahead of his time. In a 1781 poem, the writer William Cowper eulogized Cook:
Wherever he found man to nature true,
The rights of man were sacred in his view;
He soothed with gifts, and greeted with a smile,
The simple native of the new-found isle;
He spurn'd the wretch that slighted or withstood
The tender argument of kindred blood;
Nor would endure that any should control
His freeborn brethren of the southern pole....
While Cook is loved for savage lives he saved,
See Cortez odious for a world enslaved! (45)

It has become fashionable in recent decades to denounce Cook as a representative of the alleged evils of Western civilization. One writes that "the indigenous peoples of Australia and their supporters view Captain Cook's arrival over two centuries ago as an imperialist colonial invasion." (46) When a replica of the Endeavour visited New Zealand in 1995, Maori activists protested that it was a "menace floating around the Pacific," and that Cook had brought "the scurvy, the pox, the filth, and the racism" to Polynesia. (47) Although many of Cook's successors deserve condemnation for imposing cruel, racist policies on natives, the man himself, whatever his faults, was among the finest exemplars of the rational virtues of the Enlightenment.

Cook's achievements--in preventing scurvy, in disproving the fantasies of the southern continent and the Northwest Passage, in making peaceful contact with countless local tribes--are distinct among those of the many other great scholars and scientists who made the Enlightenment such a glorious era of discovery. But as striking as these are, his greatest success came not in any flash of inspiration, but in the meticulous daily attention to the tasks of mapping rocks, cliffs, and reefs, and of navigating his tiny ships across an incalculably vast, unknown, and dangerous sea. His true memorials, in the end, are his maps--beautifully detailed, carefully calculated, and splendidly precise. Scientific discovery is often a boring process of observation, record keeping, and computation, and it has been said that genius is the "infinite capacity for taking pains." If so, James Cook deserves a leading place among the great geniuses of world history.


(1.) Tony Horwitz, Blue Latitudes (New York: Holt, 2002), 400. Horwitz's book is a highly entertaining and interesting comparison of Cook's explorations with 21st-century life in the places he visited. Of the many books on Captain Cook, the finest is indisputably J. C. Beaglehole's masterpiece, The Life of Captain James Cook (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974). Briefer, but still quite good, is Richard Hough's Captain James Cook: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1997). Fascinating perspectives on Cook's interactions with natives are provided in Nicholas Thomas, Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook (London: Penguin, 2004); and Anne Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003). Cook's complete journals were edited by Beaglehole and published in five volumes, but they are so rare and expensive that they are inaccessible to most people. A heavily abridged, one-volume edition is available: Philip Edwards, ed., James Cook: The Journals (New York: Penguin, 2003); and a new, nicely illustrated edition, The Voyages of Captain Cook (Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2016), is fun reading but is based on an edition of Cook's journals that the captain himself disapproved. The Australian government has posted the entire contents of Cook's journals from the first voyage, as well as Banks's journals and those of other expedition members, at

(2.) Edwards, Cook: The Journals, 331. Cook's spelling was unorthodox even by the standards of his day, but I have modernized it for all quotations herein, for reasons well expressed by Craig Nelson in his superb biography of Thomas Paine: "Writers of the eighteenth century did not believe that consistency in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or italics was a mark of literacy. I have used modern versions of their work so that today's reader will not imagine them fusty, old-fashioned, or poorly educated, which would have horrified them. [They] considered themselves a forward-thinking avant garde, absolutely modern, who believed with all their hearts that they had it in their power to begin the world over again" (Craig Nelson, Thomas Paine [New York: Penguin, 2007], n.p.).

(3.) The most recent pair were in 2004 and 2012. The next will be in 2117 and 2125.

(4.) Thomas Bowden, The Enemies of Christopher Columbus (Cresskill, NJ: Paper Tiger Books, rev. ed., 2003), 33.

(5.) Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 57.

(6.) Horwitz, Blue Latitudes, 59.

(7.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 52-53.

(8.) Thomas, Discoveries, 154-59.

(9.) Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 68.

(10.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 50.

(11.) Almost literally. The word hongi means "sharing of breath."

(12.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 200.

(13.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 200.

(14.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 200.

(15.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 166.

(16.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 140.

(17.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 165.

(18.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 166.

(19.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 167.

(20.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 257.

(21.) Thomas, Discoveries, 251-58.

(22.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 379-80.

(23.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 418.

(24.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 418.

(25.) Cook named many of the lands he discovered after people he admired or who had shown him favor. Principal among these was John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who is credited with inventing the sandwich and who served as First Lord of the Admiralty, overseeing the Royal Navy. Cook also named the Hawaiian archipelago the Sandwich Islands in his honor. The South Sandwich Islands, by contrast, are an uninhabited and inhospitable archipelago some 1,600 miles east of Argentina.

(26.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 412.

(27.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 422.

(28.) Technically, "Captain" Cook never held the rank of captain; he was a lieutenant on his first voyage and commander on his second. A post-captain is a rank above captain.

(29.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 473.

(30.) Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 2.

(31.) Horwitz, Blue Latitudes, 128.

(32.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 454.

(33.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 506.

(34.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 507.

(35.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 532.

(36.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 535.

(37.) Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 381.

(38.) Another crewman, William Bligh, served as master of the Resolution. A decade later, he commanded the Bounty on its fateful mission from Tahiti to the Caribbean. In Tahiti, the crew mutinied and left Bligh and eighteen other men in a boat. Bligh managed the astonishing feat of navigating this boat, without charts or a chronometer, more than four thousand miles to Timor in Indonesia, with the loss of only a single man. Still another member of the crew, John Ledyard, later mounted a one-man expedition from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Yakutsk--walking alone nearly five thousand miles before being deported by the czarina.

(39.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 563-64.

(40.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 586.

(41.) Edwards, James Cook: The Journals, 595.

(42.) Beaglehole, Captain James Cook, 659.

(43.) Marshal Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Island Kingdom (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1981), 11-12.

(44.) Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 416.

(45.) John Bruce, ed., The Poetical Works of William Cowper (London: Bell & Daldy, 1865), vol. 1, 126-27.

(46.) Mike Cole, Racism and Education in the U.K. and The U.S.: Towards A Socialist Alternative (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 179-80.

(47.) Horwitz, Blue Latitudes, 129-30.

Timothy Sandefur is vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, in Phoenix, AZ, and author most recently of The Permission Society (Encounter, 2016).
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Publication:The Objective Standard
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Date:Jun 22, 2017
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