Captain Cook: Master of the Seas

Frank McLynn. Yale Univ., $35 (557p) ISBN 978-0300-11421-8
The man who searched the Pacific Ocean for the Great Southern Continent was much more than a circumnavigator and an explorer. A polymath and all-round specialist on both coastal and deep-water sailing, his selection by the Royal Society and the British Navy to lead the first expedition to the South Pacific was a strategic, political, and economic decision influenced by the results of the Seven Years War. During his three voyages, he charted the entire coast of New Zealand as well as the east coast of Australia. The introduction of Harrison’s chronometer in 1759 enabled Cook to establish correct longitude and to chart the Pacific with an accuracy that still astonishes mariners. Cook exhibited his intense interest in fields as varied as astronomy, sociology, navigation, and commerce in his establishment of England as the colonial power in Asian waters. McLynn does a yeoman’s work in transforming Cook’s terse, factual notations in the ships’ logs into a much more readable portrayal of his voyages. A just and honest captain, Cook’s navigation through the Great Barrier Reef and across both the Arctic and Antarctic circles are achievements that will never be equaled. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 06/01/2011
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