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Publishers WeeklyThough mostly forgotten, the 1791-95 voyage of Capt. George Vancouver and his crew rivaled Columbus and Cook's for long-term impact; Vancouver's painstaking navigation through the uncharted Pacific set the path for modern North Pacific history. Bown (Scurvy, A Most Damnable Invention) provides a thorough, engaging account of a journey remarkable for its time and even more so in retrospect. Essential background information is flawed by excessive foreshadowing, but Bown's vivid account of Vancouver's work-mapping the labyrinthine coast between Northern California and southern Alaska, stopping off in Hawaii and Spanish California-proves fascinating. Plans for the voyage changed repeatedly; the end of the American Revolution, Britain's long rivalry with Spain, the pressure for new trade routes, manipulation by British politicians and fur traders, and the obsession with finding a Northwest Passage made a difficult, vague assignment nearly impossible. The last chapters read like a thriller, as Vancouver's health declines, his relations with the crew sour, and Britain and France go to war. Any fan of the Great Age of Sail, the history of the Royal Navy, or European voyages of exploration will enjoy rediscovering this almost-forgotten hero.
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