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BLUE LATITUDES
Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
by Tony Horwitz
 

Tony Horwitz’s new book, Blue Latitudes, documents a modern-day odyssey in which he retraces the voyages of Captain James Cook, the Yorkshire farm boy who drew the map of the modern world. Once again, Horwitz uses a traveling companion, Roger Williamson, who acts as his funny man sidekick to relieve the sometimes tiresome facts of history.

Captain James Cook's three epic 18th-century explorations of the Pacific Ocean were the last of their kind, literally completing the map of the world. Horwitz’s book shows readers how the world has changed, in most cases not necessarily for the better. In retracing key legs of the circumnavigator's journey, he chronicles the cultural and environmental havoc wrought by Cook’s opening of the unspoiled Pacific to the West.

Horwitz compares Cook’s three voyages to the modern-day T.V. epic, Star Trek. When Cook set sail for the Pacific in 1768, a third of the world lay unknown. By the time he died in Hawaii in 1779, the world map was all but complete.

Cook explored more of the earth’s surface than anyone before or since. He introduced the West to an exotic world of cannibalism and ritual sex. Yet remains as mysterious today as the unchartered seas he sailed.

In an entertaining, informative look at the life and travels of Captain Cook, Horwitz combines a sharp eye for reporting with subtle wit and a wonderful knack for drawing out the many characters he discovers along the way. Horwitz recounts Cook's rise from poverty in a large family in rural England to an improbable and dazzling naval career that brought him worldwide fame. At the same time, he tells about his own adventure following in Cook's footsteps, visiting his far-flung destinations. Readers will find this book satisfying as Horwitz skillfully intertwines his own often quite funny adventures with tales of Cook and his men direct from their journals.

Ever the great adventurer, Horwitz begins his own journey of exploration aboard a replica of Cook’s first ship, the Endeavor. He, along with other adventure travelers work long hours with virtually no sleep, and what they do get is in return is a narrow hammock and the rigors of life aboard an 18th-century sailing ship. After leaving the Endeavor, he meets the King of Tonga, Maori gang members and Aboriginal leaders on his trek across the South Pacific.

In one of the many humorous sections, he writes about the Savage Islands, which, as it turns out, weren’t really savage at all. In this same section, he spends the better part of a week hunting for the elusive red banana, which when eaten stains the teeth red–when Cook saw the islanders, he thought they had just finished eating humans.

While Horwitz’s newest book captivates his readers, it doesn’t compare to his last one, Confederates in the Attic. Perhaps, that’s because he tried to cover too much in this book. That said, Blue Latitudes is certainly worth a read, especially for the modern-day insights Horwitz gives into life in the South Pacific. With healthy doses of both humor and provocative information, the book should please fans of history, exploration, travelogues and, of course, top-notch storytelling.

Buy this book...

 

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