Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before

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by Tony Horwitz

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Tony Horwitz (Baghdad Without a Map, One for the Road, Confederates in the Attic) is an unrivaled practitioner of how-it-should-be-done exploration and adventure writing, and his stirring chronicle of voyaging and visiting along Captain James Cook's pioneering routes will fire up landlocked readers. Cook's three voyages of the 1770s were the greatest and most challenging attempts ever undertaken to discover and map the nondum cognita (not yet known) world: the imagined Great Southern Continent, the Pacific archipelagos, and (almost an afterthought) the Northeast Passage.

Horwitz provides a rousing tale of modern-day exploration as he and his volunteer shipmates endure the rigors and hardships of the voyage on a replica of Cook's ship, calling to mind the best that adventure literature has to offer. But he does much more. With keen insight, he examines the profound impact of Cook's appearance -- unavoidably, as an advance man for British imperial and commercial interests -- on the native peoples of New Zealand, Australia, and other homelands. Along the way he provides an engrossing consideration of intrusion and memory; of change and loss of identity; of displacement and the problems of adaptation. The indigenous social and economic entities of Cook's day are long gone; Horwitz examines the degree to which the successor arrangements -- so often dominated by the United States or European powers -- have proved to be both destructive and unrewarding. He lets the locals speak, and they have much to say that's painful to hear. This book is a winner, and the excellent source notes open a welcome door to the always engaging Cook literature. Peter Skinner

Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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.
From the Publisher

“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.” —Bill Bryson, author of In a Sunburned Country

“Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes is one of the best. . . full of humor. . . an elegant running account of Cook's exploits.” —The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

“Part history, part travelogue -- and mostly just great fun. . . This is history on a global scale, and Horwitz tells it surpassingly well.” —Los Angeles Times

“A tour de force of evocative history, serious scholarship, and compelling writing.” —The Washington Post

“Part Cook biography, part travelogue, and very much a stroke of genius.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Hilarious, brainy, and balanced. . . .A trip with Horwitz is as good as it gets.” —The Charlotte Observer

“Tony Horwitz has done it again. . . Keen insight, open-mindedness and laugh-out-loud humor.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A staggering blend of historical research, character study, sociological analysis, and intriguing tales of travel.” —The Boston Globe

“Curiosity, intelligence, compassion and a sense of adventure. . . I love reading Tony Horwitz.” —Chicago Tribune

“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.” —The Seattle Time

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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.

Meet the Author

Tony Horwitz is the bestselling author of Midnight Rising, A Voyage Long and Strange, Blue Latitudes, Confederates in the Attic, and Baghdad Without a Map. He is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He lives in Martha's Vineyard with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their two sons.

Tony Horwitz is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for many years as a reporter, first in Indiana and then during a decade overseas in Australia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, mostly covering wars and conflicts as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. After returning to the States, he won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author.

His books include Midnight Rising, A Voyage Long and Strange, Blue Latitudes, a national and New York Times bestseller about the Pacific voyages of Captain James Cook, Baghdad Without a Map, a national bestseller about the Middle East, and Confederates in the Attic, a national and New York Times bestseller about the Civil War.

Horwitz has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and a visiting scholar at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He lives with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their son, Nathaniel, on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Brief Biography

Waterford, Virginia
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
B.A., Brown University; M.A., Columbia University School of Journalism

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Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is in my top 5 list of favorite books!! It is fascinating, funny at times, and informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rarely does an author take you to a place well enough so your sense can imagine the sites, sounds and smells. Horwitz has done that in this fantastic story of following Captain Cook through his highs and his lows. Horwitz takes the reader there only because he's been there first hand. If you read one book on Captain Cook and the voyages of discovery in the Pacific Ocean, this is the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Horwitz fails to draw the reader into his book. In an attempt to prevent it from becoming a history book he slaps in his 'adventures' between Cook passages. By doing this the reader never gets a great taste of Cook or Horwitz. Furthermore, Horwitz seems overly critical of every island he comes to. He almost whines like a child when he finds the islands aren't like they were 200+ years ago, what did he expect? His blind love for Cook prevents him from presenting anything negative against Cook. When something rises, he quickly shoots it down with arguments that are very shaky.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tony Horwitz takes us through a fantastic voyage cleverly interwoven through past and present by following Captain Cook's explorations. The book is well researched, most entertaining and reveals just how much of a true environmentalist Mr. Horwitz is at heart. While I personally met him at a booksigning this summer in Buzzards Bay, MA. I can attest to the fact that he is the most delightful story-teller in person as well as through his writing. A really interesting book and a 'good read.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the whole book in one weekend while deployed here in Iraq. I wish all history was this entertaining to read. I will gladly read all Horwitz works while here. My next read will be 'Baghdad Without a Map'; hopefully this will provide some insight to the region I am currently occupying
Guest More than 1 year ago
I confess, I'm obsessed by Captain Cook's legacy. I've followed him from Antarctica to Alaska, even volunteering as docent on board Endeavour's replica ship. Blue Latitudes confirmed and enriched my experiences. Scholarship and adventure make irresistable reading. I read slowly to savor the flavor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I grew up in Hawaii, so of course I'd heard of Captain Cook, and have even visited Kealakekua Bay several times. I first heard about this book on NPR, and immediately took a detour from my errands to find it. It was well worth it. Tony Horwitz traces the three voyages of James Cook, an amazing man who accurately charted one third of the planet, and manages not only to capture Captain Cook the explorer, but also Cook the man. Most fascinating for me was the attitudes of the peoples and cultures Cook encountered, both then and now. Is James Cook the villain, who is responsible for all the ills the cultures suffered at the hands of European expansion? Or was he at the very least, the most open-minded of the European "invaders", concerned for the effect his crew and others to come would have on the native peoples? These attitudes seem colored by both the prevailing culture (the warlike stance of the Maoris of New Zealand, or the more pacifistic view of the Aborigines of Australia) and the PR (sometimes false) generated by Cook's previous biographers. Regardless, James Cook was a complex man, who made questionable choices, particularly on his last voyage. Tony Horwitz' clear, easy writing style brings the Pacific regions... from Polynesia, Antarctica, and the Pacific northwest... and their people to life, often with great humor and great sympathy.
Anthony13 More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. The author has a gift with words, and a gift with clarity. You will NOT be able to put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it very much and learned a great deal of history and geography
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for any Cook fan!
MDTuck More than 1 year ago
An excellent comparison between a long ago voyage and the repeat in modern times. Anyone interested in Captain Cook, history and that part of the world would be enthralled.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a class and thought it would be a typical biography. It was the exact opposite. The author gives you a picture of what Cook's travels were like and what the lands he traveled are like now with the author's personal experiences. Excellent writing and very enjoyable to read.