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Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain…

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before (edition 2003)

by Tony Horwitz

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Title:Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
Authors:Tony Horwitz
Info:Picador (2003), Edition: Later printing, Paperback, 496 pages
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Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz


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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Excellent narrative which is part travelogue, part history and part humor. Put off reading this for a while which I now regret. Should have read it sooner. The author tells the story of Capt James Cook in such a way that the tale never becomes boring despite the large length of the book. I learned a lot not only about Cook, but also sailing, the Pacific region, Alaska and exploration. Highly reccomended. This is non-fiction writing taken to a high level. ( )
  mcola | Sep 20, 2016 |
"Going where Captain Cook went before" is the subtitle of [Blue Latitudes] and that is just what Tony Horwitz does, or tries to do. What is interesting is that in all the course of his quest he rarely found anything of a physical nature that was either in quite the right place or authentic. Nor, he found, is the sheer audacity and breadth of Cook's achievement properly understood by any but a few very thoughtful folks--the sheer, breathtaking, unimaginable, and arguably mad courage it took to do what he did, go as far as he did, with what were still primitive ships and navigational instruments compared to what we consider essential today. He did, however, bring the ills of the Euroculture to the Pacific, he didn't mean to, but you can't really argue with it, as the ravaging effects of first contact were known by then. For a man of his day he was unusually sensitive to the fact that perhaps the ways of the English weren't the one and only way. Horwitz is willing to debate that issue, and approaches it at different times in different ways, but he never loses sight of this one over-arching fact, the scale of the voyages. As with other Horwitz adventures, he goes back and forth from his own quest in the present (the last book of his I read he was searching for evidence of the explorations of the non-Anglo explorers, mostly Spanish, in the southern USA) to the known facts and history of Cook and his sailing companions. His quest starts with a ride in a recreation of the Endeavour up the coast of Washington state, after which winds around from New Zealand and Australia, into the Pacific Isles and to the far north, the site of the third and disastrous voyage, a look for the fabled Northwest Passage, and the return to Hawaii which ends with his death. Horwitz doesn't flinch from the seeming personality change from the younger to the older Cook, whose calm judgment and tolerance both seem to fail him at long last. Horwitz is accompanied, most of his travels by his friend Roger, an Australian by way of Yorkshire, who serves as comic relief to Horwitz's basic seriousness and was quite entertaining. It's interesting to read this just after reading about Patrick Leigh Fermor, another restless adventurer, and at the end, Horwitz, also a restless adventurer, muses a bit on that personality profile and what potential value it has for humanity. A thwarted profile in our time, when physical exploration of the globe is complete. I hadn't known either, that Star Trek's Captain Kirk (down to his very name!) was invented with Cook very firmly in Gene Roddenberry's mind. Makes perfect sense to me! ****1/2 ( )
  sibyx | Aug 13, 2016 |
About 2/3 done. Good read, but somehow a bit of heavy-going for me - I find myself putting it down and not being inclined to pick it up. That may simply be that it's Large Print and physically heavy. Or it may be that there's no photos, sketches. Are there such in the regular edition??

Ok done. I sure do feel like I've accomplished something. What, exactly, I'm not sure. It's definitely not an adventure story. Mostly it's a travelogue, I think. Something of a memoir, of the part of Horwitz that is interested in Cook. Something of a biography of Cook and a history of Cook's voyages and their impact, then and still, on the places & peoples he touched.

So, yeah, with all that, it was a fairly dense read. But not heavy, not difficult - just a lot of information. And it seemed balanced - yes, Cook had instructions to respect native sovereignty, and was generally peacable, but of course much damage was done by all European explorers, including Cook and his crew.

Note that these voyages were taken during the same time period that the American colonies were breaking free from England.

Let's see - 7 bookdarts...:

1. I like the Maori greeting Kia ora, good health. I'll use it.
2. The Maori word for computer is rorohiko - lightning brain. Cool.
3. In his journals, Cook's remarks were also unsettling. They presaged the fate of New Zealand's natives and their environment, just as Lewis and Clark's journals foretold the ravaging of the American West."
4. For example, "[W]e interduce amont them wants and perhaps diseases... disturb that happy tranquility... tell me what the Native of the whole extent of America have gained by the commerce they have had with Europeans."
5.,6. references to artwork I need to search online to see - Claes Oldenburg 'Bottle of Notes' and William Hodges's portrait of Cook.
7. A couple of verses of Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' remind me I want to re-read that poem. Coleridge attended school where one of Cook's astronomers, William Wales, taught mathematics and talked about his voyage (Cook's second, on the resolution).

Another good book on this subject is [b:Stowaway|842131|Stowaway|Karen Hesse|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1178826483s/842131.jpg|452722] by [a:Karen Hesse|4057|Karen Hesse|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1201117179p2/4057.jpg]. I read that a few years ago and found nothing here to give lie to anything Hesse wrote. She does good research and writes beautifully to make history alive for those of us not fans." ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
"Cook’s greatest feat . . . was the three epic voyages of discovery he made in his forties—midlife today, closer to the grave in the eighteenth century.

"In 1768, when Cook embarked on the first, roughly a third of the world’s map remained blank, or filled with fantasies: sea monsters, Patagonian giants, imaginary continents. Cook sailed into the void in a small wooden ship and returned, three years later, with charts so accurate that some of them stayed in use until the 1990s.

"On his two later voyages, Cook explored from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from Tasmania to Tierra del Fuego, from the northwest shore of America to the far northeast coast of Siberia. By the time he died, still on the job, Cook had sailed over 200,000 miles in the course of his career—roughly equivalent to circling the equator eight times, or voyaging to the moon."

Tony Horowitz’s Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before is an odd, oddly appealing mix of history and somewhat humorous travel writing. Horowitz weaves the story of his own travels along parts of Captain Cook’s routes from his three Pacific voyages with the story of Cook himself. Throughout runs the theme of how the impact of Cook’s contact with islands and people previously unknown to Europe has reverberated throughout the intervening centuries.

Most of my prior knowledge of Cook comes from what I’ve read about Joseph Banks, the wealthy naturalist and botanist (President of the Royal Society for over 40 years), who accompanied Cook on his first journey. Horwitz relied on Banks’s journals, in addition to Cook’s and some of the other crew, for the history in this book.

Horwitz starts his adventures with a physically exhausting week volunteering on a replica of Cook’s ship the Endeavour. Later, he travels with his wife (Geraldine Brooks) and their son to his wife’s native Australia, which he plans to use as a home base for his research and travel. An old (often inebriated) friend, Roger, offers to join him on his journeys. Roger, a keen sailor, provides much of the comic relief throughout the book. On their visit to Matavai Bay, Cook’s landing site in Tahiti, Horwitz and Roger dress in wigs, white stockings and knee breeches, splash in the water, and unfurl a Union Jack, while nearby sunbathers ignore them. This humor, though, is counterpointed with how far removed Tahiti and Bora-Bora are from the paradise described by Cook and Joseph Banks (Horwitz particularly cites the environmental damage in Bora-Bora), and how the native populations were decimated by disease and the introduction of guns and other weaponry into their society. Missionaries in the 19th century completed the destruction by successfully convincing the people to let go of their native customs and folklore, much of which has now been forgotten forever.

Cook’s reputation in the Pacific is primarily negative, particularly among the native population. While in New Zealand, Horwitz learns that a visit by the Endeavour replica four years prior was greeted by death threats for the captain, and refusals by tribal elders to guarantee the ship’s safety. As one activist said, “We wonder at those who would honour the scurvy, the pox, the filth, and the racism that Cook’s arrival brought to this beautiful land.” Monuments to Cook, where they exist, are often vandalized.

In Australia, where Cook’s ship was probably the first contact the Aborigines had had with the outside world in eight thousand years, the European legacy is particularly problematic. A population estimated at the time to number between 300,000 and a million, who merely wanted to be left alone (the first group he encountered ignored the ship, and when most fled upon the ship coming close to land, two men stood their ground and called out to the sailors to “Go away”), was reduced by 1901 to 94,000.

In many places, Horwitz points out, Cook has mostly been eliminated from the history books, and Horwitz struggles with what he sees as an emphasis on trying to find politically correct ways of discussing the “encounters” between the native populations and the Europeans rather than facing head-on the seizure of lands (Cook’s orders were to get the consent of the natives before taking possession of any land, orders he consistently disregarded) and the negative impact on people, environment, and culture.

Horwitz decided not to follow fully in the path of Cook’s second and third voyages like he did the first, because he felt that Antarctica and the Arctic Circle would be too cold and bleak, and wouldn’t give him enough people to talk with. Instead, he decides to try to experience Cook’s sense of newness and uncertainly by selecting the island of Niue, which Cook called “Savage Island”, and traveling there blind, with no knowledge of the country. Later, he visits Tonga, England (where again, it’s hard to find representations of Cook’s legacy, although he does visit a delightful museum created and run by another Cook obsessive), and Alaska, before ending up at the site of Cook’s death in Hawaii.

Horwitz presents the history in an accessible, fascinating way, and his own travels and encounters with people from all walks of life with humor and respect. He raises questions with no easy answers (and perhaps no answers at all) that I know I will continue to spend a long time pondering.
  cabegley | Jan 28, 2016 |
I loved this book. Tony Horwitz has a wonderful writing ability that brings you along on his journey with him, sharing in his good and bad times. He challenges accepted history with his hands-on approach, following in the footsteps (and waves) of Captain Cook. Horwitz is always looking deeper, asking one more question, and experiencing one more event in his pursuit of historical truth (if such a thing can be achieved).
  Flagrua | Sep 5, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Tony Horwitz has done it again. In his earlier, riveting book, "Confederates in the Attic," he journeyed through the South to explore the rich and thorny legacy of the Civil War. With the same keen insight, open- mindedness and laugh-out-loud humor, he undertakes another daunting quest in "Blue Latitudes" -- to travel across the globe in search of the memory of Captain James Cook, the 18th century English explorer whose ambition led him, as he famously put it, "not only farther than any other man has been before me,
but as far I think it possible for man to go."
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Ambition leads me not only farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.----THE JOURNAL OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK
For Natty, an adventurer at five
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Just after dark on February 16, 1779, a kahuna, or holy man, rode a canoe to His Majesty's Sloop Resolution, anchored off the coast of Hawaii.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312422601, Paperback)

Captain James Cook's three epic 18th-century explorations of the Pacific Ocean were the last of their kind, literally completing the map of the world. Yet despite his monumental discoveries, principally in the South Pacific, Cook the man has remained an enigma. In retracing key legs of the circumnavigator's journey, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz chronicles the cultural and environmental havoc wrought by the captain's opening of the unspoiled Pacific to the West, as well as the alternately indifferent and passionate reactions Cook's name evokes during the writer's journeys through Polynesia, Australia, the Aleutians, and the explorer's native England. Horwitz skillfully weaves a biography and travel narrative with warm humor that is natural and human-scale, and his restless inquisitiveness quickly infects the reader. While striking dichotomies abound throughout that journey--Maori toughs who adopt Nazi imagery to symbolize their own fight against white domination, millennia-old Polynesian sexual mores that would shame the Reeperbahn, a sense that Christianity decimated native cultures at least as effectively as Western venereal diseases did--few are more poignant than the ones that abound in Cook's own life. This fine work is an adventurous reminder that answers to historical riddles are elusive at best--and seldom as compelling as the myriad new questions they pose. --Jerry McCulley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:16 -0400)

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Documents the three high-adventure voyages of Captain James Cook, who between 1768 and 1779 mapped a final third of the globe that was previously uncharted.

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