CAPTAIN JAMES COOK by Richard Hough

CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

A Biography

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A vivid and well-documented account of the life and voyages of the famous 18th-century English navigator. James Cook discovered and charted coastlines from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the east of Australia to Alaska, and hundreds of islands in between. Here Hough (Edward and Alexandra, 1993, etc.) tells the story of this remarkable man, the son of a land laborer, who managed to rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy to become a member of the Royal Society (the oldest scientific society in Great Britain) and one of the most celebrated men of his time. Hough concentrates on the three lengthy Pacific voyages that occupied the last 11 years of Cook's life before his death at the hands of Hawaiian cannibals in 1779 at the age of 51. His first great voyage involved an expedition to Tahiti in order to measure planetary distances by parallax observations of the passage of Venus across the sun that took place in 1769. He was then commissioned to claim for Britain the Great Southern Continent (which he proved did not exist) and West Holland (Australia), and charged with opening the much-sought-after Northwest Passage. Hough's narrative is based on his extensive reading of the copious logs and scientific records made by Cook himself and the astronomers and botanists who sailed with him. We learn of Cook's sure instinct for governing his men, how he imposed a vitamin C regimen, which virtually eliminated scurvy, and of his unusual gentleness and understanding in his dealings with Polynesian and Maori natives who had never before seen a European. Hough has a keen eye for the pathos and absurdity of human nature, which enhances descriptions both of the high and mighty with whom Cook had to contend in England and of the natives whom he encountered in his amazing journeys. A rich taste of 18th-century life and its spirit of scientific and human daring.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03680-4
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995




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