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Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before Paperback – Unabridged, August 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

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. Yet despite his monumental discoveries, principally in the South Pacific, Cook the man has remained an enigma. In retracing key legs of the circumnavigator's journey, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz chronicles the cultural and environmental havoc wrought by the captain's opening of the unspoiled Pacific to the West, as well as the alternately indifferent and passionate reactions Cook's name evokes during the writer's journeys through Polynesia, Australia, the Aleutians, and the explorer's native England. Horwitz skillfully weaves a biography and travel narrative with warm humor that is natural and human-scale, and his restless inquisitiveness quickly infects the reader. While striking dichotomies abound throughout that journey--Maori toughs who adopt Nazi imagery to symbolize their own fight against white domination, millennia-old Polynesian sexual mores that would shame the Reeperbahn, a sense that Christianity decimated native cultures at least as effectively as Western venereal diseases did--few are more poignant than the ones that abound in Cook's own life. This fine work is an adventurous reminder that answers to historical riddles are elusive at best--and seldom as compelling as the myriad new questions they pose. --Jerry McCulley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In an entertaining, informative look at the life and travels of Capt. James Cook, Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic; Baghdad Without a Map) combines a sharp eye for reporting with subtle wit and a wonderful knack for drawing out the many characters he discovers. The book is both a biography of Cook, the renowned 18th-century British explorer who's widely considered one of the greatest navigators in maritime history, and a travel narrative. On one level, 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. On another, he tells his own story of following in Cook's wake, visiting his far-flung destinations (with the exception of Antarctica) and investigating his legacy. It is satisfying in both regards, Horwitz skillfully pacing the book by intertwining his own often quite funny adventures with tales of Cook and his men. Despite the historical focus, Horwitz doesn't stray too far from the encounters with everyday people that gave his previous books such zest. His travels bring him face-to-face with a violent, boozing gang of Maori New Zealanders called the Mongrel Mob, who are violently critical of Cook, arguing that "Cook and his mob, they put us in this position," Moari activists "wondering at those who would honour the scurvy, the pox, the filth and the racism" that they feel he brought to their island, and the King of Tonga, who couldn't seem to care less about what the explorer meant to his domain. With healthy doses of both humor and provocative information, the book will please fans of history, exploration, travelogues and, of course, top-notch storytelling.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312422601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312422608
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tony is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He spent a decade overseas as a foreign correspondent, mainly covering wars and conflicts for The Wall Street Journal. After returning to the U.S., he won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and wrote for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author.

His books include the national and New York Times bestsellers, Confederates in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, Baghdad Without a Map and A Voyage Long and Strange. Midnight Rising, was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2011; one of the year's ten best books by Library Journal; and won the 2012 William Henry Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography. His latest, BOOM, is his first ebook, about a journey through the tar sands and along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Tony has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a visiting scholar at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He lives with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their sons, Nathaniel and Bizu, on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. O'Connor on September 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Horwitz, who is a veteran in the travelogue/history genre, sets about to rescue Cook's threatened reputation from those who view him as the first "conquistordor" of the Pacific isles he alledgedly "discovered" in his three epic 18th century voyages. Horwitz, while giving ample voice to those inhabitants of these lands who look upon Cook as an unmitigated disaster for their peoples and cultures, and admitting the toxic influence of those Westerners who descended upon the Pacific in Cook's wake, potrays a much more liberal-minded explorer who appreciated the peoples and cultures he met and mingled with, more of an enlightenment figure than we have previously supposed. Indeed, Horwitz argues that one of the reasons that Cook is not celebrated or memorialized in Britain as lavishly as Nelson and Wellington, is that he was not a military hero, was more explorer than conqueror.
Horwitz pays Cook his due, pointing out the sheer difficulty and hardship of his navigations, and meanders around the Pacific in his steps, talking to all sorts of characters that he meets along the way, both about Cook, the past, and the present state of Pacific affairs. And for comic relief he brings along, quite by accident he tells us but one can't imagine making the trip without him, his Falstaffian pal Roger, with a bottle in both hands,and a jaundiced eye and bawdy quip when things threaten to get too serious. Fans of Horwitz, Cook, travel writing, or a yen for the Pacific isles will not be disappointed.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
For various reasons, there continues to be substantial interest in great explorers such as Earnest Shackleton, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Robert Falcon Scott, and James Cook. This the first of two books about Cook which I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed. (The other is Vanessa Collingridge's Captain Cook: A Legacy Under Fire.) They discuss a common subject but from different perspectives. I highly recommend both. According to Horwitz, Cook set out on various voyages (1768-1789) uncertain of eventual destinations and traveled more than 200,000 miles while dependent (by today's standards) on crude, indeed primitive navigation instruments but sustained by his superior seamanship skills. Of special interest to me is the fact that Horwitz traced many of the same voyages to Bora Bora, Australia, Savage Island, Tonga, Alaska, and Hawaii. He shares his own reactions to what these areas have become, most in sharp contrast to the "pure state of Nature" as Cook once described it. Horwitz's extensive research suggests that many of those whom Cook encountered correctly suspected (and feared) that their lives and communities would never be the same after Cook's "discovery" of them. Beyond the wealth of information this book provides, it is that rare achievement among works of nonfiction: a page-turner.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tim Whelan on October 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tony Horwitz spends a year and a half visiting many of the places Captain Cook visited from 1768 - 1779. The book culminates with Cook's violent death in modern day Hawaii.
The book alternates back and forth between Cook's 18th century experience and Mr. Horwitz's modern day travels. Horwitz does an excellent job of interpreting the various sources available and giving an account that the historical layperson can relate to. Key characters include the author, Cook, the colorful Joseph Banks (the Endevour's Botanist) and Horowitz's even more colorful traveling companion Roger Williamson. Horwitz paints a picture of Cook as an austere, yet fair man-seemingly driven to the edges of the earth. As driven as Cook is to explore the world, Banks is driven to explore the anatomies of females from different Polynesian cultures. Roger is mainly content to explore the bottle and make wisecracks about Horwitz's adventure. If you think Blue Latitudes sounds like a dry historical piece, you're sorely mistaken. Any potential dryness is quickly quenched by Horwitz's wit, Banks's "botanizing" and Roger's boozing.
Much to my wife's amusement I found myself laughing out loud many times while reading Blue Latitudes. Despite that, I found myself strangely moved after reading the account of Cook's death. While the consequences of Cook's voyages are complex, you cannot help but feel a great admiration for this man who started with so little yet went so far. Great book, highly recommended.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on October 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tony Horwitz had a tough task in following up his massively successful "Confederate in the Attic." Give him credit, "Blue Latitudes" certainly is no quickie effort to cash in on Horwitz's now-famous name. Instead, the author travelled tens of thousands of miles researching the legacy of Captain James Cook, arguably the greatest of all European explorers. Like "Attic" the book is part history, part travelogue and part social commentary. Horwitz includes mnay more historical information this time out, most likely because far fewer readers are intimately familiar with Cook's voyages than the Civil War.
Horwitz starts his journey by sailing on a replica of Cook's first ship Endurance to get a feel for 18th Century shipboard life. He then spends most of the remaining time traipsing around the Pacific with his Australian friend Roger, who provides the same kind of narrative counterpoint as Robert Lee Hodge did in "Attic." Horwitz documents the changes that have occurred in Oceania because of Cook's "discoveries" and interviews numerous islanders to find out how they feel about Cook's legacy. The results are often surprising and enlighteneing.
Having said all of that, "Blue Latitudes" is not a classic on the order of "Attic." The narrative is a lengthy at nearly 450 pages and is sluggish at times. Companion Roger is not nearly as interesting a character as was Hodge and the moments of uproarious humor that made "Attic" so entertaining are mostly missing this time out. Nevertheless, "Blue Latitudes" is still a well-written and worthwhile read for those with an interest in the subject matter.
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