Chart­ing a course from first voy­age to last rites

The Weekend Australian - Review - - BOOKS -

Death of Cap­tain Cook tak­ing part in stoushes that Mun­dle sug­gests “ex­celled the wildest dreams of that young farm boy”. While Bri­tish ships were try­ing to dis­lodge the French from Que­bec, Cook as a ‘‘mas­ter’’ aboard the Pem­broke wit­nessed 26 men die of scurvy dur­ing a 10-week jour­ney. An­other good les­son. Cook would al­ways pro­vi­sion his ves­sels with sauer­kraut (pick­led cab­bage), which pro­vided a mea­sure of life-sav­ing vi­ta­min c.

The first of his re­mark­able nav­i­ga­tional charts would be drawn up while ex­plor­ing Halifax Har­bour and the shore­lines of the St Law- rence River af­ter meet­ing a Dutch-born sur­veyor there. His first chal­lenge was that of spher­i­cal trigonom­e­try. Mun­dle sug­gests Cook was one of the first men to un­der­stand and ap­ply the ‘‘new’’ form of ce­les­tial nav­i­ga­tion us­ing a sex­tant, an in­stru­ment cre­ated a mere two years ear­lier in Eng­land.

Four years and eight months later, with a trunk filled with charts, sound­ings and sur­veys, his ves­sel and oth­ers sailed back to Eng­land.

By now, as Mun­dle points out, his rep­u­ta­tion as a sur­veyor in the Royal Navy was “un-

Ge­orge Carter’s paint­ing

(1781)

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