Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and His Rivals in the South Pacific

Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and His Rivals in the South Pacific

by Geoffrey Blainey
     
 

In 1769 two ships set out independently in search of a missing continent: a French merchant ship, the St. Jean-Baptiste, commanded by Jean de Surville, and a small British naval vessel, the Endeavour, commanded by Captain James Cook. That Christmas, in New Zealand waters, the two captains were almost within sight of each other, though neither knew of the

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Overview

In 1769 two ships set out independently in search of a missing continent: a French merchant ship, the St. Jean-Baptiste, commanded by Jean de Surville, and a small British naval vessel, the Endeavour, commanded by Captain James Cook. That Christmas, in New Zealand waters, the two captains were almost within sight of each other, though neither knew of the other's existence. This is the stirring tale of these rival ships and the men who sailed in them. Geoffrey Blainey brings his marvelous storytelling powers to bear on this fascinating and important adventure, drawing us brilliantly into the lives of the major figures.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Renowned Australian historian Blainey (A Short History of the World) homes in on a detailed account of the 1768-1771 exploratory voyage of English navigator Capt. James Cook and the contemporaneous voyage of the rival French captain Jean de Surville through the same previously uncharted waters. Each hoped to find "David Land," a continent thought to lie in waters between New Zealand and South America rumored to have a Jewish colony and be rich in gold and natural resources. Blainey, a good storyteller, focuses primarily on Cook, recreating a compelling, sometimes minute-to-minute account of the historic voyage. The recounting of the near loss of the aptly named Endeavour on Australia's Great Barrier Reef is gripping. His descriptions of the conditions the sailors faced (tropical diseases and scurvy take a tremendous toll) are harrowing in their exactitude-and his accounts of how Cook and de Surville viewed the native populations they met presage how fatally dangerous Europeans were to be to indigenous peoples. Blainey's knowledge of his material and his respect for the skills of Cook and de Surville make this an attractive tale for history enthusiasts. Illus., maps. (May 1)

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Kirkus Reviews
Prolific Australian historian Blainey (A Short History of the Twentieth Century, 2006, etc.) revisits the epic journey of Capt. James Cook's Endeavour and a parallel voyage by a French ship. The author notes that the Endeavour, bankrolled by the British crown and loaded with scientists, and Capt. Jean de Surville's St. Jean-Baptiste, stocked with trading merchandise and in search of a legendary Jewish colony in the South Pacific, both made maritime history in different ways. They even passed within miles of each other in the Tasman Sea on the same day in December 1769, despite the fact that Cook departed in August 1768 from Plymouth, de Surville in June 1769 from Pondicherry, India. Both voyages were inspired by Capt. Samuel Wallis's discovery of Tahiti on the Dolphin in 1767, and by his hints at an adjacent land mass inhabited by Jewish traders. They were also inspired by expeditions in the previous century by the Dutchman Abel Tasman. Blainey excavates the journals of Cook, the Endeavour's aristocratic botanist Joseph Banks, de Surville and others, fashioning an exciting, detail-heavy re-creation of the parallel voyages. De Surville explored a previously unknown stretch of the Pacific, though he veered westward too precipitously, heading to New Zealand, while Cook and his crew of botanists were heading home from New Zealand by what they thought was the expedient route, and struck the eastern coast of Australia. Both made tentative first contact with natives, and both were hounded by scurvy, though Cook's dietary innovations were lifesaving. Blainey's knowledge of the continent's indigenous peoples and flora and fauna are exceptionally useful in understanding the context of thesediscoveries.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566638258
Publisher:
Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
Publication date:
05/16/2009
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

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