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Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before Paperback – August 1, 2003
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“Thoroughly enjoyable. No writer has better captured the heroic enigma that was Captain James Cook than Tony Horwitz in this amiable and enthralling excursion around the Pacific.” ―Bill Bryson, author of In a Sunburned Country
“Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes is one of the best. . . full of humor. . . an elegant running account of Cook's exploits.” ―The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“Part history, part travelogue -- and mostly just great fun. . . This is history on a global scale, and Horwitz tells it surpassingly well.” ―Los Angeles Times
“A tour de force of evocative history, serious scholarship, and compelling writing.” ―The Washington Post
“Part Cook biography, part travelogue, and very much a stroke of genius.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Hilarious, brainy, and balanced. . . .A trip with Horwitz is as good as it gets.” ―The Charlotte Observer
“Tony Horwitz has done it again. . . Keen insight, open-mindedness and laugh-out-loud humor.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“A staggering blend of historical research, character study, sociological analysis, and intriguing tales of travel.” ―The Boston Globe
“Curiosity, intelligence, compassion and a sense of adventure. . . I love reading Tony Horwitz.” ―Chicago Tribune
“Horwitz succeeds brilliantly in turning the English from stiff icons to flesh-and-blood human beings. The book's constant humor, honesty and judgment recall his own Confederates in the Attic and Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.. . . This book will keep you enthralled.” ―The Seattle Time
About the Author
Tony Horwitz is the bestselling author of Confederates in the Attic, Baghdad Without a Map, and One for the Road. He is also a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has worked as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and a staff writer for The New Yorker. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their son, Nathaniel.
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I finished "Blue Horizons" on Waikiki Beach - an appropriate setting. My Hawaii vacation read gripped me from the getgo. When I turned the last page I felt that great book sadness.
I am thankful Tony Horowitz shares his prodigious writing talent with us. His combination of travel, humor and exhaustive history is wonderful.
I read a lot, both non-fiction and fiction. Tony Horowitz is one of my favorite authors.
If you possess an interest in Captain Cook and South Pacific history, you won't be disappointed.
Tony, please keep writing!!!
James Cook seems largely to be forgotten to history. Yet, his was probably the most incredible voyage of discovery. Just the story of how Cook came to be a navigator is a fascinating one. In a day where the children of laborers did not receive an education, a mentor took notice of Cook and paid for four years of school. Cook was ambitious and worked hard to fill in the gaps in his education. As a teen, he moved from a store clerk to working on a coal ship to finally joining the Royal Navy, where he rose very rapidly through the ranks.
The tales of Cook's three voyages to the Pacific are an unbelievable story. This man of humble beginnings became one of the world's greatest explorers. In the course of 10 years, his Pacific travels covered over 200,000 miles at a time when one third of the world was unknown and unmapped. He traveled "140 of the earth's 180 degrees latitude, as well as its entire longitude." He probably named more places (rivers, islands, points, bays, bluffs, etc.) than any other man, before or since. He was a shrewd handler of men--both those above and below him in rank. He was a prolific writer of journals and logs, which are still read today. Cook was also a brilliant surveyor and chart maker, and his map of New Zealand was used up until the 1990's (when it was finally replaced by satellite images). His voyages also led to the discovery of thousands of new plants and animals, and his claiming land for Britain helped to eventually lead Britain in becoming a major empire that spanned 11 thousand miles.
But what makes Blue Latitudes a true delight is Horwitz's travelogue. In his attempt to follow in Cook's footsteps and see locations as Cook might have seen them, Horwitz travels to Canada, Tahiti, Bora-Bora, New Zealand, Australia, Niue, Tonga, England, Alaska and Hawaii. With his sidekick Roger, his travels are often hysterical. His week spent on a replica of the Endeavour (complete with 14 inches of hammock space) is especially a hoot. But it is also depressing to discover that the European explorers (not just Cook) changed the way of life on these islands. Many brought with them disease, STD's, materialism and religion. They also tried to eradicate the native culture and native populations. Horwitz also discovered that while Cook is revered in England, he is pretty much reviled among the Pacific nations he visited. Yet ironically, journals, diaries, logs and sketches from Cook's travels are in some cases the only record of these native cultures. It was also distressing to Horwitz was to discover that very little actually exists from Cook's time. Places he lived, worshipped and worked are pretty much gone. The sites he visited are also much changed. Cliff Thornton, president of the Captain Cook Society told Horwitz that "the best you can do is catch an echo of the man. You can almost never reach out and touch him."
The only thing lacking from this almost perfect book is pictures. There are plenty of maps and a painting of Cook. It would have been fascinating to see photos of the many places Horwitz traveled. I don't expect to be traveling to Bora-Bora, Tonga, Niue, Tahiti, or the other locations mentioned any time soon. Still, Blue Latitudes is a wonderful book and even those not much interested in history will find a fascinating story here.