Wednesday, April 7, 2010

240-year-old science

The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific: As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779 / edited by A. Grenfell Price. Published by Dover Publications, New York, 1971. ISBN 79145750, 292p.

240 years ago Captain James Cook sailed to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Batavia, and then around South Africa and home to England in the Endeavor on the first of his three voyages to the Pacific Ocean between 1768-1779.
“The greatest of sailor explorers the world has known…” Percy Adams, Introduction.
“… no man did more to alter and correct the map of the earth, abandoning the great southern Terra Incognita and the equally mythical Northwest Passage. After him map makers were able to correctly represent Australia’s east coast and the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, and northwest coast of North America, and dozens of islands in Polynesia, New Zealand as two islands.”

Accomplishing these discoveries, he fulfilled the orders bestowed on him in the spring of 1768 by the British Admiralty and Royal Society to monitor the transit of Venus. European countries were engaged in a race for scientific discoveries, and Great Britain wished to take the lead in astronomy and map making.

His journals are compelling accounts of his expeditions, the manner in which he kept his crew healthy and free of scurvy, the description of life in societies of the Pacific Islanders, and of the supernumeraries aboard with their own scientific agenda.

Selected titles about Captain Cook:
Farther than Any Man: the Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook. / Martin Dugard. New York: Pocket Books, 2001.

Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook. / Nicholas Thomas. New York: Walker & Company, 2003. Read by Museum Volunteer Ron Ellis.

Captain Cook in the Pacific. / Nigel Rigby and Pieter van der Merwe. Greenwich, England : National Maritime Museum, 2002.

Captain Cook’s Second Voyage. / John Elliot and Richard Pickersgill. London, England: Caliban Books, 1984.

Nu-Tka: Captain Cook and the Spanish Explorers on the Coast. / Barbara S. Efrat and W.J. Langlois, editors. Victoria, Canada: Sound Heritage, Vol. 7, Number 1, 1978.

Explanation of Words and Phrases:
Percy Adams: a travel writer who focused on books written by early explorers.
Tahiti: named King George’s Island when first sited by Samuel Wallis in 1767.
Batavia: name of Indonesia by Dutch settlers
Transit of Venus
Hawaiian visit of James Cook Waimea, Hawaii
Scurvy: disease contracted by sailors who ate no vitamin C, due to lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Supernumeraries: a traveler, not a sailor, “an extra person”, from (Random House Dictionary, ©1966.)
Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.

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