The Wide Wide Sea The Wide Wide Sea

The Wide Wide Sea

Imperial Ambition, First Contact and the Fateful Final Voyage of Captain James Cook

    • 4.6 • 180 Ratings
    • $14.99
    • $14.99

Publisher Description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR SO FAR FOR 2024 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • A “thrilling and superbly crafted” (The Wall Street Journal) account of the most momentous voyage of the Age of Exploration, which culminated in Captain James Cook’s death in Hawaii, and left a complex and controversial legacy still debated to this day.

“Hampton Sides, an acclaimed master of the nonfiction narrative, has taken on Cook’s story and retells it for the 21st century.”—Los Angeles Times

On July 12th, 1776, Captain James Cook, already lionized as the greatest explorer in British history, set off on his third voyage in his ship the HMS Resolution. Two-and-a-half years later, on a beach on the island of Hawaii, Cook was killed in a conflict with native Hawaiians. How did Cook, who was unique among captains for his respect for Indigenous peoples and cultures, come to that fatal moment?

Hampton Sides’ bravura account of Cook’s last journey both wrestles with Cook’s legacy and provides a thrilling narrative of the titanic efforts and continual danger that characterized exploration in the 1700s. Cook was renowned for his peerless seamanship, his humane leadership, and his dedication to science-–the famed naturalist Joseph Banks accompanied him on his first voyage, and Cook has been called one of the most important figures of the Age of Enlightenment. He was also deeply interested in the native people he encountered. In fact, his stated mission was to return a Tahitian man, Mai, who had become the toast of London, to his home islands. On previous expeditions, Cook mapped huge swaths of the Pacific, including the east coast of Australia, and initiated first European contact with numerous peoples. He treated his crew well, and endeavored to learn about the societies he encountered with curiosity and without judgment.

Yet something was different on this last voyage. Cook became mercurial, resorting to the lash to enforce discipline, and led his two vessels into danger time and again. Uncharacteristically, he ordered violent retaliation for perceived theft on the part of native peoples. This may have had something to do with his secret orders, which were to chart and claim lands before Britain’s imperial rivals could, and to discover the fabled Northwest Passage. Whatever Cook’s intentions, his scientific efforts were the sharp edge of the colonial sword, and the ultimate effects of first contact were catastrophic for Indigenous people around the world. The tensions between Cook’s overt and covert missions came to a head on the shores of Hawaii. His first landing there was harmonious, but when Cook returned after mapping the coast of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, his exploitative treatment of the Hawaiians led to the fatal encounter.

At once a ferociously-paced story of adventure on the high seas and a searching examination of the complexities and consequences of the Age of Exploration, THE WIDE WIDE SEA is a major work from one of our finest narrative nonfiction writers.

April 9
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

G'Dad12 ,

Contagious reading

An interesting journey as if though you are riding along with the characters, hard to put down and fascinating story.

Matixxx ,

The Wide Wide Sea

A great and detailed story of Cook’s last voyage. Dramatic, entertaining, and factual. If you like histories of exploration and the clash of cultures, get it.

wer749 ,


Very well written and entertaining!

More Books Like This

Farther Than Any Man Farther Than Any Man
Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare
The Discovery of Tahiti The Discovery of Tahiti
Captain Cook Captain Cook
In the Kingdom of Ice In the Kingdom of Ice
The World of Patrick O'Brian The World of Patrick O'Brian

More Books by Hampton Sides

In the Kingdom of Ice In the Kingdom of Ice
Blood and Thunder Blood and Thunder
Ghost Soldiers Ghost Soldiers
On Desperate Ground On Desperate Ground
Hellhound on His Trail Hellhound on His Trail
Americana Americana

Customers Also Bought

River of the Gods River of the Gods
The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel
The Demon of Unrest The Demon of Unrest
Blood and Treasure Blood and Treasure
The Wager The Wager
Madhouse at the End of the Earth Madhouse at the End of the Earth