An attempt to recreate the hold-to-forecastle turbulence of the voyage of Captain James Cook's Endeavor. Accompanied by a group of naturalists and a pioneer botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, Cook went to the South Seas to ""observe the transit of Venus,"" He was forced to put up for forty-nine days at Charco Harbour, named for the strange exclamations of the natives of the Great Barrier Reef. Although separated by an oppressive caste system both nautical and social, gentlemen and seamen alike were dominated by the inflexible will and discipline of the Captain (vicious floggings among other things). One desperate seaman took off to the native community, but returned to the ship driven by a homing imperative. The author's method, which involves immersing himself both in the speech and the spirit of the times, and telling his story in a series of episodic thrusts, can be exhilarating as well as irritating. Many of the characters are dim and sketchy, and the details of the voyage difficult and diffuse. But there is a heavy wash of fine research to shoal up an exciting tale, and the more painstaking explorer will find it rewarding.