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Dugard, Martin. Farther than any man; the rise and fall of Captain James Cook.

Simon & Schuster, Washington Square Press. 288p. map. c2001. 0-7434-0069-0. $14.00. SA

Of all of the great terrestrial explorers from the Age of Exploration, Captain James Cook came closest to the persona of Star Trek's Captain James Kirk. For all of its square-rigged frumpiness, Cook's converted collier Endeavour was cutting-edge technology for its day: a self-repairing vessel capable of infinite replenishment from undeveloped local resources, and propelled by a limitless power source. Better yet, Cook's standing orders were no less generous than his Starfleet successors: the Admiralty in effect ordered him to "go where no man has gone before," explore a vast plenum for whatever he might find, and return at a time of his own choosing.

The British chose the right man for the job. The 18th-century Royal Navy was full of well-connected aristocrats and dilettantes with precedence, but for this job it wisely chose a hard-bitten warrant officer who had come up through the ranks. Cook had the seagoing experience needed to knock his crews into line, and the technical and navigational skills to make such a project succeed. Most important, though, was his personality and ability to grow to meet an infinite number of new challenges. He came to have a gigantic curiosity about the lands he saw, from Alaska to Antarctica, and developed the diplomatic skills that brought out the best in his scientist-passengers. Over three major expeditions he very nearly made the entire Pacific Basin into his private lake.

Interestingly enough, this popular history of the redoubtable Cook and his adventures was written by a sailor-adventurer. Author Martin Dugard is a yachtsman and oceanic racer himself, who has seen his share of storms and tight spots. He rescues Cook from the fustiness of textbook history and gives the reader a good taste of the maritime and political problems that a captain faced in the age of sail. This is not an exhaustive history by any means, nor particularly well documented. In numerous places Dugard just touches on a situation or episode that begs for further investigation. But his writing is crisp and the action moves ever forward, in much the same spirit of Captain Cook himself. High school and older readers will be captivated by this story, and many will find themselves impelled to read further about the doughty explorer and his extraordinary life and times. Raymond L. Puffer, Ph.D., Historian, Edwards Air Force Base, CA
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Author:Puffer, Raymond L.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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