author of In a Sunburned Country Bill Bryson
Thoroughly enjoyable. No writer has better captured the heroic enigma that was Captain James Cook than Tony Horwitz in this amiable and enthralling excursion around the Pacific.
The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes is one of the best. . . full of humor. . . an elegant running account of Cook's exploits.
Los Angeles Times
Part history, part travelogue and mostly just great fun. . . This is history on a global scale, and Horwitz tells it surpassingly well.
The Washington Post
A tour de force of evocative history, serious scholarship, and compelling writing.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Part Cook biography, part travelogue, and very much a stroke of genius.
The Charlotte Observer
Hilarious, brainy, and balanced. . . .A trip with Horwitz is as good as it gets.
San Francisco Chronicle
Tony Horwitz has done it again. . . Keen insight, open-mindedness and laugh-out-loud humor.
The Boston Globe
A staggering blend of historical research, character study, sociological analysis, and intriguing tales of travel.
Curiosity, intelligence, compassion and a sense of adventure. . . I love reading Tony Horwitz.
The Seattle Time
Horwitz succeeds brilliantly in turning the English from stiff icons to flesh-and-blood human beings. The book's constant humor, honesty and judgment recall his own Confederates in the Attic and Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.. . . This book will keep you enthralled.
Journalist Horwitz, who is fascinated by James Cook and is convinced the world has underestimated his achievements, follows the explorer's three ventures into what was at that time the vast unknown. Signing on as a crew member for a Cook ship simile cruise, he experiences firsthand the life of an 18th-century sailor and becomes completely captivated with Cook's accomplishments. Subsequently, Horwitz and an Australian friend take more contemporary transportation to visit the captain's English home and the faraway places with strange sounding names that he opened to the world. The author slips easily from explaining history, Cook's personality, and life to describing his own modern-day experiences delving into Cook's past. Some details of late 1700s shipboard discipline, sexual lifestyles, and Cook's death and dismemberment are probably too grisly for most young listeners. Despite a few too many searches for and visits with the odds and ends of people (from bartenders to a king) who claim to have some affiliation with Cook, the book is interesting and educational. Daniel Gerroll is well spoken and does accents and other voices very nicely. For history and travel buffs interested in Australia, the South Pacific, and seafaring; generally recommended for adult and college collections.-Carolyn Alexander, Brigadoon Lib., Corral de Tierra, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Pulitzer-winning journalist and travel-writer Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic, 1998, etc.), dogging the wake of Captain Cook, discerningly braids Cook's long-ago perceptions with his own present-day inquiries into the lands the Captain encountered. Cook made three epic voyages, sailing from Antarctica to the Arctic, from Australia to Alaska, and to many of the islands that lie between. Fascinated by the man and his accomplishments, Horwitz visits those far-flung lands where the impact of Cook's arrival was more profound and lasting than the news of the lands' existence was upon the Europeans back home. The author travels by sailboat and ferry, often in the company of his Australian chum Roger, an odd-fellow and contrarian of rare stripe who adds a comic counterpoint to Horwitz's probings into attitudes toward Cook in the places he set anchor-attitudes that run the gamut from loathing to reverence. Natives for the most part revile him, though it's a quirk of fate that the captain's logs are now helping New Zealand's Maori establish land claims. Horwitz's portraits of the lands can be dispiriting: Bora Bora on the brink of environmental collapse, Tahiti gripped by ennui, Tonga feudal with feudal squalor and ill temper. But there are also innocent Niue and vibrant Hawaii and Australia-where Cook is sooner forgotten by all concerned. Of the navigator himself, Horwitz says that "his journals allow us to chart almost every one of his steps and sails, right down the minutest degree of latitude. But [he] left us no map to his own soul." Still, he rises from these pages as a thoughtful and humane character sensitive to the men who served him and to the local populations he met, though "mutualincomprehension over notions of property and justice [plagued him] throughout his Pacific voyages" and in fact led to his death. Tandem voyages taken 200 years apart: filled with history and alive with contrasts.
Read an Excerpt
From Blue Latitudes:
I studied the application for a berth on His Majesty's Bark Endeavour. An Australian foundation had built a replica of Cook's first vessel and dispatched it around the globe in the navigator's path. At each port, the ship's professional crew took on volunteers to help sail the next leg and experience life as eighteenth-century sailors. This seemed the obvious place to start; if I was going to understand Cook's travels, I first had to understand how he traveled.
The application asked about my "qualifications and experience."
"Have you had any blue water ocean sailing experience?"
"Can you swim 50 meters fully clothed?"
"You will be required to work aloft, sometimes at night in heavy weather. Are you confident of being able to do this?"
I wasn't sure what was meant by "blue water ocean." Did it come in other colors? I'd never swum clothed; as for working aloft, I'd climbed ladders to scoop leaves from my gutter. I checked "yes" next to each question.
But the last query gave me pause. "Do you suffer from sea sickness?"
Only when I went to sea.