Dark side to Capt Cook
The punishments Captain Cook imposed on his sailors are the subject of a new book by Papakowhai man Allan Arlidge.
Captain Cook’s Discipline is the fruit of 30 years’ research by the 91-year-old former history teacher. The book exposes a hidden side to Cook’s three Pacific journeys, because while Cook recorded his punishments in his captain’s logs, he often omitted them from the journals he presented to naval superiors.
‘‘He just wanted to paint the best picture he could in his journals. He left out the nasty bits,’’ Mr Arlidge said.
Previous Cook biographers like Beaglehole made little reference to the Articles of War, the code of conduct for British seamen, but punishments were often a daily fact of life at sea.
‘‘It was this apparent contradiction which set me alight,’’ Mr Arlidge said. ‘‘He was a disciplinarian.’’
Sailors could be punished for transgressions such as desertion, insubordination, consorting with the enemy, or bad behaviour when the ship was in port.
A famous example of misbehaviour was Cook’s sailors stealing nails from their ship to pay for sexual favours in Hawaii. Let alone the damage to the boats, sexually transmitted diseases were a major worry for Cook, Mr Arlidge said.
Nobody was put to death on Cook’s journeys, but plenty of floggings were administered by Cook’s staff with a cat o’ nine tails.
‘‘There’s so many aspects to his pun- ishments, that makes it an interesting story,’’ he says.
Mr Arlidge served four years in the Royal Navy during World War II. He gained a master’s degree in history in 1952 and taught in high schools in Lower Hutt, Napier and the Wairarapa.
In 1975 his hips started to fail and he used his downtime to research Cook, New Zealand’s first European governor of men. His research led to articles for history journals, and finally his selfpublished book.
Depending on how it is received, Mr Arlidge may travel to the UK this year to speak to a Captain Cook society, but he has no plans to write another book.
Captain Cook’s Discipline is available from Mr Arlidge for $45 plus p&p. Email email@example.com.
Cooking up a story: Papakowhai 91-year-old Allan Arlidge exposes a disciplinarian Captain Cook in his new book focusing on the explorer’s punishments of his seamen.