In an exhilarating tale of historic adventure, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Confederates in the Attic retraces the voyages of Captain James Cook, the Yorkshire farm boy who drew the map of the modern world
Captain James Cook's three epic journeys in the 18th century were the last great voyages of discovery. His ships sailed 150,000 miles, from the Artic to the Antarctic, from Tasmania to Oregon, from Easter Island to Siberia. When Cook set off for the Pacific in 1768, a third of the globe remained blank. By the time he died in Hawaii in 1779, the map of the world was substantially complete.
Tony Horwitz vividly recounts Cook's voyages and the exotic scenes the captain encountered: tropical orgies, taboo rituals, cannibal feasts, human sacrifice. He also relives Cook's adventures by following in the captain's wake to places such as Tahiti, Savage Island, and the Great Barrier Reef to discover Cook's embattled legacy in the present day. Signing on as a working crewman aboard a replica of Cook's vessel, Horwitz experiences the thrill and terror of sailing a tall ship. He also explores Cook the man: an impoverished farmboy who broke through the barriers of his class and time to become the greatest navigator in British history.
By turns harrowing and hilarious, insightful and entertaining, BLUE LATITUDES brings to life a man whose voyages helped create the 'global village' we know today.
In an entertaining, informative look at the life and travels of Capt. James Cook, Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic; Baghdad Without a Map) combines a sharp eye for reporting with subtle wit and a wonderful knack for drawing out the many characters he discovers. The book is both a biography of Cook, the renowned 18th-century British explorer who's widely considered one of the greatest navigators in maritime history, and a travel narrative. On one level, Horwitz recounts Cook's rise from poverty in a large family in rural England to an improbable and dazzling naval career that brought him worldwide fame. On another, he tells his own story of following in Cook's wake, visiting his far-flung destinations (with the exception of Antarctica) and investigating his legacy. It is satisfying in both regards, as Horwitz skillfully paces the book by intertwining his own often amusing adventures with tales of Cook and his men. Despite the historical focus, Horwitz doesn't stray too far from the encounters with everyday people that gave his previous books such zest. His travels bring him face-to-face with a violent, boozing gang of Maori New Zealanders called the Mongrel Mob, who are violently critical of Cook, arguing that "Cook and his mob, they put us in this position," Moari activists "wonder at those who would honour the scurvy, the pox, the filth and the racism" that they feel he brought to their island, and the King of Tonga, who couldn't seem to care less about what the explorer meant to his domain. With healthy doses of both humor and provocative information, the book will please fans of history, exploration, travelogues and, of course, top-notch storytelling.
Good but could have benefited from illustrations and photos other than the maps.
Inspired escapades made for a very enjoyable read
A fun, informative and provocative book. I appreciated the mixture of contemporary daring and irreverence in tracing a significant portion of Cook's amazingly long journeys.
What a great experience to accompany the author on a modern day exploration of Captain Cook's legacy. Not only are the description of Cook's exploits interesting, but the story-telling and prose are so readable and realistic that I felt like I was accompanying Horowitz on his research and Cook on his voyages. The author's efforts at research is extraordinary, and his commitment to retrace Cook's footprints around the globe is truly inspiring.